Urinary uranium (U) provides an indication of recent or ongoing exposure to the metal, and endogenous detoxification to a lesser extent. This test measures U238 which is the most abundant, naturally occurring U isotope.
All ten isotopes of U are radioactive; U-238 is the most abundant naturally occurring isotope and lowest energy emitter. It is important to note that the measured U-238 represents naturally occurring U, and does not indicate or imply exposure to highly enriched U-235 which is used in nuclear power and weaponry.
U is a nonessential element that is abundant in rock, particularly granite. U is present at widely variable levels in drinking water, root vegetables, and high phosphate fertilizers. Some bottled waters may contain U, particularly those originating from mountain springs. Other sources of U include some ceramics, some colored glass, and some mine tailings. Uranium that is not excreted in urine may accumulate in bone and kidney tissues as well the liver. In excessive amounts, U can be nephrotoxic. Fatigue may be associated with
chronic, low-level exposure to U.
Hair elements analysis may indicate exposure to U over the past 2-4 months.
The level of U in tap and well water can be assessed with the Comprehensive Drinking Water Analysis test.
Renal excretion accounts for most uranium (U) that is excreted from the body. Uranium is considered mildly toxic for two reasons, low-level radioactivity and moderate biochemical toxicity.
Uranium is a radioactive element with 10 isotopes with half lives exceeding one hour. U238 constitutes about 99% of the naturally- occurring U and this is the isotope measured at DDI and reported for this individual. U238 has a half-life of 4.5 X 10 to the ninth years. It decays by alpha emission to produce thorium, Th234, the initial step in a decay chain that eventually leads to lead. Alpha, beta and gamma emissions occur during this decay process. Because of the very long half-life, the radioactivity danger is only slight. However, exposure to enriched or nuclear fuel grade U (high in U235) does pose a health hazard. The measured result (U238) does not reflect or imply exposure to enriched U235.
The toxochemical effects of U may be more severe than the radiochemical effects for U238. Uranium has four valences (3,4,5 or 6), can combine with phosphate, citrate, pyruvate, malate, lactate, etc. in body tissues, and usually is transported in the blood as a carbonate complex. Uranium that is not excreted in urine can accumulate in bone and kidney tissues as well as in the spleen and liver. In excessive amounts, it can be nephrotoxic. Inhaled U accumulatesin lung tissue. Fatigue is the most common symptom associated with chronic, low-level (natural) U exposure (DDI observations).
Uranium is more common than mercury, silver or cadmium in the earth's rock strata, and may be present, at low levels, in ground (drinking) water. Most commercial use of U is for nuclear fuel, but it may be present in ceramics or colored glass, especially ancient or antique, yellow-colored glassware.
Hair elements analysis may provide further information regarding temporal exposure to U.
Whole blood U analysis may provide confirmation of very recent or ongoing exposure to uranium.
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