John Libbey Eurotext

Environnement, Risques & Santé


Depleted uranium: Metabolic disruptor? Volume 10, issue 6, Novembre-Décembre 2011


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IRSN Direction de la radioprotection de l’homme Laboratoire de radiotoxicologie expérimentale Service de radiobiologie et d’épidémiologie BP 17 92262 Fontenay-aux-Roses cedex France

The presence of uranium in the environment can lead to long-term contamination of the food chain and of water intended for human consumption and thus raises many questions about the scientific and societal consequences of this exposure on population health. Although the biological effects of chronic low-level exposure are poorly understood, results of various recent studies show that contamination by depleted uranium (DU) induces subtle but significant biological effects at the molecular level in organs including the brain, liver, kidneys and testicles. For the first time, it has been demonstrated that DU induces effects on several metabolic pathways, including those metabolising vitamin D, cholesterol, steroid hormones, acetylcholine and xenobiotics. This evidence strongly suggests that DU might well interfere with many metabolic pathways. It might thus contribute, together with other man-made substances in the environment, to increased health risks in some regions.