Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have been exposed to a number of environmental hazards, including respiratory hazards resulting from exposure to fumes from burn-pits and fires.
An article published in the New England Journal of Medicine this past July reported the results of a study involving soldiers with inhalational exposures during service in Iraq and Afghanistan. The study involved Veterans who were experiencing shortness of breath with exertion. Many of the study participants had been exposed to inhalation exposure from a 2003 sulfur mine fire in Iraq.
The study found that a respiratory condition known as constrictive bronchiolitis was present in 48 previously healthy soldiers, which was possibly associated with inhalational exposure in 38 of them.
According to a recent Military Times article, Dr. Robert Miller, a pulmonologist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee has diagnosed more than 40 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans with constrictive bronchiolitis. His diagnoses have been challenged by doctors from the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio who do not find that the data establishes a convincing link between exposure and the condition.
Other studies are on-going to determine whether a link exists between Veterans’ health problems and exposure to burn pits and other environmental hazards in Iraq and Afghanistan. An allergy and asthma specialist at New York’s Stony Brook University Medical Center is conducting a study of Veterans whose health problems may be linked to burn pits and other environmental exposures.
The research, led by Dr. Anthony Szema, the school’s assistant professor of medicine and surgery, will analyze data provided by Veterans and service members to the advocacy group Burn Pits 360, examining symptoms, diagnoses, place and date of assignment, age, gender and other data.
Burn Pits 360 hopes the results will help the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments develop health care models to treat illnesses related to environmental exposures.