- Everyone is exposed to uranium in food, air, and water as part of the natural environment. Most exposures do not warrant monitoring or treatment.
- Populations most heavily exposed to uranium are those employed in mining and milling operations, or in uranium enrichment and processing activities.
- Natural and depleted uranium are primarily chemical toxicants, with radiation playing a minor role or no role at all.
- Outcomes that may occur with uranium overexposure, based on both observed human effects and animal studies, include non-malignant respiratory disease (fibrosis, emphysema) and nephrotoxicity.
- Nephrotoxicity should reverse as overexposure ceases.
- Alpha radiation (such as that from uranium) is classified as a human carcinogen. However, human studies have not found elevated rates of cancer from uranium exposure, and high-dose animal studies have not found cancer following inhalation, oral, or dermal exposure to uranium.
This educational case study document is one in a series of self-instructional courses designed to increase the primary care provider’s knowledge of hazardous substances in the environment and to promote the adoption of medical practices that aid in the evaluation and care of potentially exposed patients. The complete series of Case Studies in Environmental Medicine is located on the ATSDR Web site at www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/csem.html. In addition, the downloadable PDF [439 KB] version of this educational series and other environmental medicine materials provides content in an electronic, printable format, especially for those who may lack adequate Internet service.
We gratefully acknowledge the work that the physician writers, editors, and reviewers have provided to produce this educational resource. Listed below are those who have contributed to development of this version of the Case Study in Environmental Medicine.
Please Note: Each content expert for this case study has indicated that there is no conflict of interest to disclose that would bias the case study content.
ATSDR Authors: Kim Gehle MD, MPH
ATSDR Planners: Charlton Coles, PhD; John Doyle, MPA; Bruce Fowler, PhD; Kimberly Gehle, MD; Sharon L. Hall, PhD; Michael Hatcher, DrPH; Kimberly Jenkins, BA; Ronald T. Jolly; Barbara M. Riley, RN; Delene Roberts, MSA; Oscar Tarrago, MD, MPH, CHES; Brian Tencza, MS.
Contributors: Sam Keith, SB, MS; Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics (AOEC) contractors: Denece Kesler, MD, Madu Arora, MD, Kerrie Seger, MD, Philip Wagner, MD, Monica Pourrat, MD, Joanne Keefe, RN, Joyce Van Dellen, CNP, Melanie Valdez, RN, Jean Jones, NP, Patti Austin, NP, Tom White, PA, Herman J. Gibb, PhD, Joseph Burnell, PhD, Ed Maibach, PhD, M. Haider, PhD.
Peer Reviewers: Sam Keith, SB, MS, ATSDR; Dr. Gayle Debord, PhD, NIOSH; and Mary E. Mortensen, MD, NCEH/DLS.
The state of knowledge regarding the treatment of patients potentially exposed to hazardous substances in the environment is constantly evolving and is often uncertain. In developing its educational products ATSDR has made a diligent effort to ensure the accuracy and the currency of the presented information. ATSDR, however, makes no claim that the environmental medicine and health education resources discussed in these products comprehensively address all possible situations related to various substances. The products are intended for educational use to build the knowledge of physicians and other health professionals in assessing the conditions and managing the treatment of patients potentially exposed to hazardous substances. The products are not a substitute for a health-care provider’s professional judgment. Please interpret the environmental medicine and the health education resources in light of specific information regarding the patient and in conjunction with other medical authorities. Use of trade names in ATSDR products is for identification purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine
Environmental Medicine and Educational Services Branch