Uranium is a naturally occurring radioactive metal. It is found in small amounts in rocks, soil, water, and air and contributes to the weak background radiation that is found everywhere. Uranium ore is mined, milled, and then chemically concentrated by a process called "enrichment." Uranium is used in nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons, and small amounts can be found in ceramic glazes, light bulbs, photographic chemicals, and other household products. As a result, we are exposed to small amounts of uranium daily. People can come into contact with larger amounts of uranium by working at nuclear power plants, weapons production facilities, or uranium mines and mills.

Exposure to uranium generally occurs through inhalation and/or ingestion. Inhalation of airborne uranium dust is the most common means of workplace exposure. Once inhaled, uranium dust can leave the body through exhalation or urination. Workers may also be exposed to uranium at work through ingestion of uranium-contaminated food and water. If uranium is ingested, most of it will leave your body within a few days through your feces. However, at times, uranium can remain in the lungs, or it can enter the bloodstream, kidneys, and/or bones, possibly causing damage to these organ systems.

Due to the fact that uranium is a heavy metal, and is radioactive, exposures can lead to short-term or long-term side effects. If you have had significant exposure to uranium, you may be at risk for kidney disease, and/or bone or lung cancer. Urine and blood tests can help determine if you have been exposed to uranium. Factors that determine whether you have been harmed by your exposure include; how much uranium you came into contact with, and the duration of the contact. An examination by a physician trained to recognize signs of exposure to uranium, can help identify some of the health effects of such an exposure. The physician can then advise you on how to reduce your health risks and refer you for additional testing if necessary.

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