Exposure to excessive uranium (U) in humans and animals is believed to damage their kidneys. This review article studies previous research data to evaluate the danger of kidney disease (nephrotoxicity) after exposure to U in humans. Without knowing exactly how it happens, evidence at this time is that U can cause kidney damage.
U is used in nuclear energy production providing 17% of the world’s electricity. U use has been increased by climate change, reduced oil reserves and limitations by the Kyoto protocol. This has stimulated a frenzy of mining. U is widely present, globally, in air, soil, food and water. The high concentrations of U in water are in mountainous regions, such as in Scandinavia, Canada and the United States.
Toxicity can affect the kidneys, lungs and liver. Reduced sperm counts, fetal toxicity and lesions of the testes have been shown to result from U exposure in animal tests. Long-term exposure may lead to hypertension and anemia due to kidney disease. Treatment with U salts increases the chance that other agents which are toxic (such as gentamicin antibiotic) may cause kidney failure. If the food and water contain U, children are more susceptible to kidney damage as they consume more water and food per body weight than adults.
U stores in the body after oral ingestion, inhalation and contact with the skin. The exposure can occur suddenly or over a long period of time. U enters the blood and is distributed throughout the body. It stores in the bones (66%), kidneys (8%) and liver (16%). It is released slowly from the bones and organs, but rapidly from blood and urine.
Toxicity depends on sex, age and body mass index (BMI)*, and humans are among the least sensitive of the mammals. Dogs and cats are more sensitive. Toxicity may be due to radiation and chemical activity, and the low-level radioactivity of natural U is said to reduce cancer-causing activity. High blood sugar reduces kidney damage caused by U; however, kidney damage caused by diabetes increases the susceptibility to kidney damage caused by heavy metals.
The authors studied medical literature to understand the mechanism whereby U causes kidney damage. They found that U can reduce the creatinine clearance, a blood test which measures functioning of the kidneys. U increases activity of kidney enzymes, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and acid phosphatase, which can be tested in the blood. Testing in animals has also shown abnormal increases in blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and urinary proteins. The kidney function abnormalities tend to be at the higher doses of U.
Treatment must include halting the absorption of U to prevent it from acting on the target organs (such as kidneys and bones) and increasing excretion in the urine. Antacids, such as bicarbonate, are beneficial in releasing the U in the urine. Vomiting is induced and laxatives are used when the oral exposure has been acute. When U is inhaled, coughing is induced to reduce absorption in the lungs.
Chelating agents (such as EDTA) are used to bind U after it has reached target organs. EDTA can’t be used in patients once they have kidney disease.
CONCLUSION: Uranium (U) is a problem in the environment worldwide. It enters the body by gastrointestinal tract, skin or the lungs. Current information reveals that the most common toxicity is to the lungs. Removal of the source of U is important, as is elimination from the body by alkalization or by chelation.
NOTES: Recent studies have shown that U is an “endocrine-disrupter”, causing hormonal abnormalities that may result in fertility problems or cancers of the reproduction system. Other endocrine disruptors include bisphenol A (in plastic).
In addition to alkalization, supplementation with iron is said to increase the elimination of U, especially in people who are iron deficient.
Testing for U in the urine is said to be an efficient way to detect U in the body, but hair analysis can reveal any exposure over several months.
*Body Mass Index (BMI) is a calculation relating body weight to height.
Summary #952. nutrientmedicine