Fwd: [ RadSafe ] Explanation for Gulf War illness?

Steven Dapra sjd at swcp.com
Sun Jun 1 21:19:18 CDT 2008

June 1, 2008

	In an attempt to buttress his claims about the alleged dangers of exposure 
to depleted uranium (DU), James Salsman has frequently invoked a review 
paper by JL Domingo.  Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous RADSAFE 
member, I now have a copy of this paper and will present some comments on 
it.  The full title of Domingo's paper is "Reproductive and developmental 
toxicity of natural and depleted uranium: a review," [Reproductive 
Toxicology; 15 (2001) 603-609].  [I have omitted all citations in the 
following critique of Domingo (2001).]

	Domingo begins his Introduction by noting that "until recently there was a 
lack of published observations regarding uranium-induced reproductive and 
developmental toxic effects," and says that in 1987 a program was begun in 
a laboratory at his university ("Rovira i Virgili" University in Spain) to 
fill in the "gaps" regarding U toxicity in mammals.  (He also studied the 
effects of chelating agents on treating U exposure.)  He (and presumably 
his co-workers) conducted a literature search on the chemical toxic effects 
of U in mammals.  This search is summarized in Table 1 (p. 604), and lists 
nine studies, seven of them on mice, and two on rats.  Domingo was author 
or co-author of seven of the studies.

	He briefly explains the separation process leading to DU, saying that the 
"radiologic hazard of DU is less than that from natural or enriched 
uranium," and notes that chemical toxicity occurs at lower exposure levels 
than does radiologic toxicity.  He goes on to say that one exception in 
inhalation exposure, where the main concern in increased cancer risk.  He 
then introduces Gulf War Syndrome, describing it as "a poorly understood 
disease with multiple symptoms and with diversified theories about etiology 
and pathogenesis."  In support of this, Domingo cites three papers, two of 
them by A. Durakovic, who has appeared on RADSAFE before, when (in 2006) 
Salsman invoked one of the Durakovic papers Domingo cites to support 
Salsman's claim that DU is harmful.  Domingo acknowledges that a 
Presidential advisory panel stated in 1996 that "there was no evidence of a 
connection between DU and Gulf war illnesses."  (Quoting from Domingo, and 
not from the panel.)  This brings us to the end of p. 604 of Domingo.

	He begins p. 605 with a brief discussion of an airplane wreck in the 
Netherlands in 1992.  The plane used DU counterweights, and people in the 
crash area attributed their subsequent health problems to the DU.  A risk 
analysis was performed; and, says Domingo, the "conclusion was that it was 
improbable that DU was responsible for the [health] complaints."

	Next, Domingo cites a 2001 article in the Lancet whose conclusion Domingo 
summarizes as being "at any conceivable level of uptake, DU would have no 
appreciable radiologic or chemical carcinogenic potential."  He also says 
that tumors in the past decade in the former Yugoslavia "cannot" be 
attributed to DU, and that the only expected effects would be "reversible 
damage" to the kidney.  Domingo ends the Introduction by citing the "very 
few data" about the reproductive effects of DU: a mere two studies, on rats.

	In his discussion of the reproductive toxicity of U, Domingo says that 
information on this is "scarce," and that most reproductive effects of U 
are based on its chemical effect and not on its radioactive effects.  He 
describes a study on male Swiss rats that was conducted in his laboratory, 
and says that U exposure either had no effect, or that the observed effect 
could be attributed to other causes.  (All of this is from p. 605.)

	Under maternal and embryo/fetal toxicity of uranium, Domingo says that 
according to MEDLINE only two references to such studies are available, and 
that both of these studies were performed in his laboratory.  It appears 
that one or two of Domingo's mouse studies has shown some teratogenic 
effects.  Domingo does not dwell on this, and seems to spend most of his 
time discussing the lack of adverse effects on the kidney.  This is only 
reasonable, as he stated in the Introduction that the kidney is the first 
organ to be affected.

	In his closing Assessment, Domingo notes that the UNSCEAR has established 
that the limits on natural U in drinking water be based on its "chemical 
toxicity for the kidney rather than on a hypothetical radiologic toxicity 
for skeletal tissue."  (Quoting Domingo, not the UNSCEAR.)  In his 
penultimate sentence, Domingo says, "Finally, it is important to note that, 
to date, most studies on uranium-induced developmental toxicity have been 
performed in mice."  (According to his Table 1, the other studies were in 

	So, yes, it's true --- DU in the form of uranyl acetate dihydrate appears 
to be teratogenic, at least in certain strains of laboratory mice and 
rats.  It's also true that not much work has been done an attempt to 
duplicate these findings.  (I imagine the evil military-industrial complex 
is derailing any such proposed work.)

	Much more to the point, laboratory mice and rats are not being exposed to 
DU in the Balkans, nor are they being exposed to DU in the Middle 
East.  Humans are, however whether or not results in laboratory mice and 
rats can be extrapolated to humans is still a matter of debate.  Hence, 
although James Salsman may be correct about the teratogenicity of DU, he is 
correct only in a very narrow sense.  At present, I do not consider that 
very narrow sense to be applicable to much of anything that pertains to 
human health and safety.

Steven Dapra

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