Uranium has many similarities to lead in its exposure mechanisms, metabolism and target organs. However, lead is more toxic, which is reflected in the threshold limit values. The main potential hazard associated with depleted uranium is inhalation of the aerosols created when a projectile hits an armoured target. A person can be exposed to lead in similar ways. Accidental dangerous exposures can result from contact with both substances. Encountering uranium fragments is of minor significance because of the low penetration depth of alpha particles emitted by uranium: they are unable to penetrate even the superficial keratin layer of human skin. An additional cancer risk attributable to the uranium exposure might be significant only in case of prolonged contact of the contaminant with susceptible tissues. Lead intoxication can be observed in the wounded, in workers manufacturing munitions etc; moreover, lead has been documented to have a negative impact on the intellectual function of children at very low blood concentrations. It is concluded on the basis of the literature overview that replacement of lead by depleted uranium in munitions would be environmentally beneficial or largely insignificant because both lead and uranium are present in the environment. © 2014 IOP Publishing Ltd.