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You are here:  HOME  >  Research Programs  >  Internal Contamination and Metal Toxicity

Internal Contamination and Metal Toxicity

Jump to:  Background  |  Previous work at AFRRI  |  Recent accomplishments
Mission: To determine whether the short-term and long-term radiological and toxicological risks of embedded metals warrant changes in the current combat and postcombat fragment removal policies for military personnel and, in the case of internalized radiological hazards, to investigate treatment strategies to enhance elimination of these metals from the body.

Principal Investigators: John F. Kalinich, PhD; Alexandra C. Miller, PhD

Staff: Stuart Cohen, MAJ, USA, PhD; Christy A. Emond; Karvelisse Miller, Sgt, USAF; Rafael Rivas; Vernieda Vergara

Strategic plan
  • Develop a tier-testing model for assessing the health effects of embedded metal fragments.
  • Investigate new decorporation protocols for the elimination of internalized radionuclides, especially those isotopes expected to be used in radiological dispersal devices ("dirty bombs").
  • Study the long-term health effects resulting from exposure to depleted uranium (DU), as well as biomarkers than can distinguish this exposure from other toxic insults.
Research on the chemical and radiological toxicity of embedded fragments is applicable to a variety of battlefield scenarios as well as terrorism events.

The first widespread combat use of depleted uranium occurred in the First Gulf War. Due to "friendly-fire" incidents, several coalition personnel suffered wounds containing embedded fragments of depleted uranium. Because of the unique chemical and radiological properties of depleted uranium, concern was raised over the long-term health effects of these embedded fragments.

Since the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, the use of a radiological dispersal device or "dirty bomb" has become a critical concern. Many of the injuries suffered in such an event will be similar to those found in depleted uranium-wounded personnel.

Research conducted at AFRRI was instrumental in the formulation of the U.S. Army policy dealing with injuries from depleted uranium. As munitions developers move away from the use of depleted uranium in armor-piercing shells, AFRRI researchers continue to assess the health effects of the replacement metals.

Previous work at AFRRI
AFRRI scientists have been at the forefront of research into the health effects of embedded fragments. Much of the early work on model development, as well as the initial studies on the health effects of embedded depleted uranium, were conducted at AFRRI. This research provided the foundation for future work not only at AFRRI but also at other academic and government laboratories. Research has included several key areas:
Recent accomplishments
AFRRI scientists continue to be world leaders in studying the effects of embedded metal fragments of militarily relevant metals.