Biological monitoring of Italian soldiers deployed in Iraq. Results of the SIGNUM project

Claudia Bolognesi, Lucia Migliore, Florigio Lista, Sergio Caroli, Marina Patriarca, Roberta De Angelis, Riccardo Capocaccia, Sergio Amadori, Alessandra Pulliero, Cristina Balia, Renato Colognato, Vincenzo La Gioia, Stefano Bonassi, Alberto Izzotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Leukemia/lymphoma cases reported in 2001 among United Nation soldiers or peacekeepers deployed to the Balkans aroused alert on the exposure to depleted uranium. Recent epidemiological studies carried out in different European countries among peacekeepers who served in the Balkans failed to demonstrate a higher than expected risk of all cancers but, mostly due to their limitations in size and follow up time, leave open the debate on health risk of depleted uranium. The aim of SIGNUM (Study of the Genotoxic Impact in Military Units) was to identify potential genotoxic risk associated with the exposure to depleted uranium or other pollutants in the Italian Army military personnel deployed in Iraq. Methods: Blood and urine samples were collected before and after the deployment from 981 Italian soldiers operating in Iraq in 2004-2005. As, Cd, Mo, Ni, Pb, U, V, W, and Zr were determined in urine and serum. DNA-adducts, 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanine and micronuclei frequency were evaluated in blood lymphocytes. Three different genetic polymorphisms, GSTM1, XRCC1, OGG1 were analyzed. Results: Significant T0-. T1 reduction in the total concentration of uranium, increases for Cd, Mo, Ni, Zr, and decreases for As, Pb, W, and V in urine and plasma were observed. Increases in oxidative alterations and in micronuclei frequency, included in the range of values of non-occupationally exposed populations, were observed at the end of the period of employment. Conclusions: Our results did not detect any toxicologically relevant variation of DNA-damage biomarkers related to the deployment in the operational theater.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-32
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Biomonitoring
  • Chromosome rearrangements
  • Cytogenetic damage
  • Depleted uranium
  • DNA adducts
  • Micronuclei
  • Oxidative damage
  • Xenobiotics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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