UMRC is an independent scientific research organization conducting radiological, radio-biological and clinical studies on the presence and medical effects of Uranium and Trans-Uranium products. UMRC is specifically interested in developing medical sciences fields of knowledge of the consequences of uranium internal contamination via inhalation. Uranium internal contamination via inhalation occurs through the intake of airborne radioactive materials, filtered by the lungs. The lung inhalation pathway is the exposure and contamination pathway of greatest risk to human health from airborne radioactive material.
The sources and origins of internal contamination under study by UMRC are derived from artificial, technological and military applications of uranium and transuranic products. Uranium products encompass both naturally occurring and artificially produced actinides and their decay progeny. These materials are produced in a variety of ways: milled and concentrated from natural ores, separated in the uranium enrichment process, metallurgically processed, by-products and waste from nuclear reactors, waste from weapons production, purposefully synthesized by-products in nuclear reactors, and the associated decay chain products of natural and man-made fission and fusion reactions.
Air-borne radioactive materials are both intentional and inadvertent outcomes of various phases of the nuclear fuels and nuclear weapons production and deployment cycles. The proliferation, over the past 12 years, of the deployment of weapons comprising uranium and its byproducts poses significant health hazards. These weapons produce ballistically pulverized and thermally aerosolized particulate transported by the air and subsequently inhaled and filtered out of the air by the lungs. The result is acute contamination at the target site and downwind due to immediate exposure to the airborne particulate and later, chronic contamination of the environment following mesospheric settlement and mechanical re-suspension of the contaminant.
Currently, of greatest concern to human health and the biosphere are the biological and environmental effects of the class of ship, air and ground launched weapons deployed by NATO and Allied forces in the Persian Gulf, the Balkans and Afghanistan. Due to the presence of radioactive materials and the radiological effects of these weapons, they can be classified as “radiological weapons”. They may go by other names, such as: radiation dispersion weapons, “dirty bombs”, uranium-alloyed weapons, heavy metal or heavy alloy weapons and composite uranium-high explosive ordnance.
Publicly, the best know weapons are the uranium-alloyed kinetic energy penetrators (KEP’s) deployed in Operations’ Desert Storm and later in Operations’ Desert Fox and Allied Force. In addition, a new class of uranium alloyed and uranium-composite weapons is being postulated. Based on government reports and independent research, there is a growing body of evidence indicating the development and use of uranium in hard-target, deep-penetration, and DBHT (deeply buried hard target) weapons that combine uranium with high explosives (HE). This new generation of weapons is considered to contain Non-Depleted Uranium that is extracted from the nuclear fuels and nuclear weapons production cycles prior to the uranium enrichment phase. It is not yet determined if the feed stocks and metal inventories of these weapons contain transuranic products. These weapons are distinguished from Depleted Uranium kinetic energy penetrators (KEP’s) in a number of ways:
- use of pure uranium (not DU) makes the weapons significantly more radioactive;
- warheads are believed to contain much higher volumes of radioactive material (100′s to 1000′s of kilograms verses the 2 to 8 (+/-) kilograms of KEP’s;
- thermo-ballistic and pressure effects along with the mass of Uranium-HE composite weapons releases higher total volumes and concentrations per cubic meter of air, of aerosolized contaminant; and,
- there are no figures about the number of these weapons in use or explicit public admissions of their existence by NATO.
5.1 Radiological studies (often referred to as screening programs and uranium bioassay studies)
UMRC analyses biological media (e.g., urine, bone, lung tissue, etc.) provided by persons who suspect they have been internally contaminated by uranium. UMRC analyses the specimens to detect the presence and measure the levels of abnormal or artificial types of uranium contaminants. UMRC measures the levels (concentrations and quantities) and the proportions (ratios) of the uranium isotopes in the biological specimens to identify if contamination occurred, and if so, the type and quantities of the material causing the contamination (e.g., depleted uranium, non-depleted uranium, reactor fuel waste products, etc.). Biologically incorporated contaminants are compared to scientifically analyzed material present (extracted) at alleged sources of the contamination and surrounding environment to determine the origin (i.e., geological or technological origins).
UMRC’s radiological studies are used to provide clinical diagnostic support for physicians of patients suspected of having been exposed to hazardous levels of uranium and/or suffering from symptoms and presenting histories consistent with internal contamination. UMRC’s radiological studies are conducted on both living and deceased persons. Bioassay results (detected levels, types and measurements of uranium) may be used, under a Release Agreement with the donor (or their representatives) as experimental and control data in UMRC’s on-going uranium research. The data from the bioassay analyses may be published. All biological specimen donors agreeing to participate in UMRC’s studies are protected by confidentiality agreements.
5.2 Radiological studies of exposed populations
UMRC conducts radiological studies on biological specimens from selected populations suspected of wide-scale, uranium, internal contamination. These studies are conducted to identify, measure, and examine the causes, scope and scale of possible contamination from acute exposure incidents and/or chronic exposure conditions.
Population studies may involve surveys of medical and public health conditions of uranium-exposed populations and associated geological assaying to determine the extent and relationship of human and biosphere contamination. Where required to corroborate radio-biological studies and subsequently determine the origin of radioactive contaminants, UMRC conducts radiological and geo-chemical analysis of natural and human-made artifacts. This includes studies on soil, water, bomb-crater debris and shrapnel at sites and surrounding locations subjected to radiological weapons and ordnance that may contain uranium.
5.3 Clinical effects’ and medical consequences’ research
UMRC conducts clinical studies on individuals and populations confirmed to have, by radiological assessments and bioassays, uranium, internal contamination. The object of these studies is to determine the cellular, organ and biological systems’ effects of different types and levels of internal contamination. UMRC is currently conducting clinical studies of the biological effects of ionizing radiation and heavy-metal actinides on lung and kidney functions in populations with acute and chronic exposure to NATO and Allied forces’ weapons deployed in the Persian Gulf, the Balkans and Afghanistan.
UMRC’s research is based in established and evolving radio-biological, radio-chemistry and clinical research protocols and methods. The field of radiological and radio-biological analysis is evolving with the knowledge-base derived from on-going research and in conjunction with the improvements in the sensitivity and capacity of laboratory technologies and equipment used to detect and measure radioisotopes.
UMRC follows the Scientific Method and the established process of peer review to ensure efficacy and validity of its work. UMRC does not make statements or claims that are not substantiated by our research and/or other researchers whose work is peer reviewed and replicable.
UMRC is not responsible for the claims and conclusions of third parties that may publish or report UMRC’s results without prior approval and review of the contents by UMRC. This disclaimer refers also to radio, television and print interviews of UMRC staff that have been edited without UMRC’s review. It is UMRC’s experience that when scientific and research results are reported they often inadvertently omit facts and information that are relevant to understanding the research and its implications.
Clinical laboratories in hospitals and other venues used to perform medical and diagnostic tests on patients do not normally possess the equipment and resources to conduct radiological studies and assessments. Many specialist laboratories equipped to detect and measure radioisotopes are not sufficiently equipped or experienced to be able to detect low-level internal contamination or distinguish internalized, artificially formed, radioactive material from normal background levels of natural uranium in the body or environment. Physicians and patients seeking radiological bio-assay assessments from laboratories and non-clinical research settings should ensure that the facility they select is technologically capable of detecting and measuring radioisotopes below background levels and distinguish artificial uranium from natural uranium.
Because of the expressed limitations in the radio-biology and radiochemistry analytical capacity of governments and governmental-contract laboratories, UMRC has petitioned NATO member countries to establish independent radiological screening programs for veterans and civilians suspected of deleterious exposure to and or presenting with symptoms of uranium internal contamination. To date, UMRC is not aware of any NATO nations with screening programs capable of detecting and measuring low levels of radioisotopes in biological media. Persian Gulf, Balkan and Afghan veterans and civilians and their physicians have not been provided with the facilities, freedom or financing to select independent laboratories with the proven capabilities to conduct reliable studies to detect and measure uranium internal contamination.
UMRC’s reviews of reports by NATO countries outlining their screening programs for Gulf and Balkan veterans show that the programs are not technologically capable of detecting and measuring Depleted Uranium in their veterans. Given the long elapsed time since exposure, the Gulf War radiological screening programs are using laboratory equipment with detection limits unable to conclusively identify or rule out, DU, NDU or transuranic contamination in their veterans.
Currently, the Canadian Department of National Defense has provided a voluntary screening program to Gulf War veterans through government contract laboratories and Royal Military College. A review of the program’s published report shows that the screening program does not employ sufficiently sensitive equipment and analytical methods capable of identifying trace levels of uranium contamination in veterans at this late date after exposure. The DND laboratories have admitted this limitation in a peer reviewed paper published in the Journal of Health Physics, April 2002: An Examination of Uranium Levels in Canadian Forces Personnel Who Served in the Gulf War and Kosovo, E.A. Ough et al.
The US Department of Defense published an Information Paper, November 2002: Impact of Laboratory Performance of Urine Uranium Analysis on Exposure Evaluations for Gulf War Veterans. Based on the poor performance of DOD’s own laboratories, DOD questions the results of independent and non-governmental studies. The report concluded that the laboratories are not able to identify reliably and consistently, trace amounts of uranium in the urine of exposed veterans later than a few weeks following the date of exposure.
These Canadian and U.S. reports indicate the inability of defense departments’ to measure or identify the types of uranium found in veterans’ urine. The absence of the correct methods of preparing biological samples for analysis, the failure to properly use their equipment (or select the best equipment) and the faulty assumptions about the metabolic processes of internally incorporated uranium have prevented veterans from receiving reliable radiological bioassays.
Because of the complexity of the science and the controversial nature of the public policy issues surrounding uranium (Depleted Uranium, Nondepleted Uranium and uranium adulterated with transuranics), media and other reports frequently contain exaggerations and mistaken conclusions not substantiated by scientific knowledge or research. UMRC’s review of governmental studies, reports and standards reveal significant limitations in assumptions and conclusions. Deficiencies are particularly evident in the areas of:
- The metabolic pathways of uranium contaminate entering the body via inhalation.
- The biological and dose effects of internally incorporated, low-level ionizing radiation;
- The scientific methods of detecting and measuring uranium concentrations and isotopic ratios in biological specimens;
- The radio-biological processes of chronic, long term internal exposure; and,
- The ballistic and biospheric transport phenomenon and vectors of exposure of military personnel and civilians of inhalable uranium particulate.
The test of efficacy of all scientific research is its “repeatability”. UMRC encourages and supports the principle of critical and rigorous scientific examination. We invite professional and sincere co-operation with organizations and individuals sharing our commitment to research and investigations into uranium internal contamination. We invite researchers to examine and replicate our published studies, measurements, methodologies and statistical analysis of radio-isotopic concentrations, compositions and ratios. We encourage others to collect and examine corroborating biological specimens taken from exposed populations and geological samples taken from sites that may be the source of contamination.
To be reliable and accurate, replication of UMRC’s studies must be conducted on equipment, using methods sufficiently sensitive to detect nano and picogram levels of uranium in biological samples and clinical specimens. US DOD and Canadian DND studies admittedly can only detect uranium at much higher (microgram) concentrations. Attempts to repeat our research without sufficiently sensitive equipment and established methods to prepare the samples, calibrate the equipment and measure the isotopes do not constitute replication.
Methodology and procedural information are available to researchers by contacting UMRC directly and by reviewing UMRC’s published papers and society presentations. All collaborative research with UMRC is conducted under the auspices of agreements between UMRC and the principal researchers and laboratories. UMRC has published its methodology and provides direction to researchers and laboratories to ensure effective methods of analysis.