Bioaccumulation and behavioural effects of depleted uranium in rats exposed to repeated inhalations

Depleted uranium has numerous industrial and military uses. Contamination by inhalation of airborne compounds is probably the most important route of exposure. In humans, there are no data clearly demonstrating neurotoxicity of uranium, yet some experimental studies suggest a link between neurological toxicity and uranium exposure. In this work, the bioaccumulation of uranium in male rats after exposure to repeated depleted uranium dioxide inhalation (30 min inhalation at 197 mg m−3, 4 days a week for 3 weeks) has been studied, together with the behavioural effects. The uranium concentrations in the brain 1 day after the end of the exposure period varied as follows: olfactory bulb > hippocampus > frontal cortex > cerebellum, subsequently decreasing rapidly. The spontaneous locomotion activity of exposed rats was increased 1 day post exposure and the spatial working memory was less efficient 6 days post exposure, compared with control rats. These data suggest that depleted uranium is able to enter the brain after exposure to repeated inhalation, producing behavioural changes.