The answer to that question depends on where you are. In my community, it also depends on where your soldier was stationed. I happen to know people who were in and around Mosul, so this article in Military.com really made me sit up and take notice. A recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine about cases of Constrictive Bronchiolitis was sobering. The physicians at Vanderbilt who decided to do this study did so because:
Epidemiologic studies in the United States, England, and Australia have documented an increased incidence of respiratory disorders in soldiers who served in the Middle East, as compared with soldiers who were deployed elsewhere.2-5 A 2009 study of 46,000 military personnel showed an association between the development of respiratory symptoms and service in Iraq, as well as an association with service inland versus at sea.
The group that was followed in this study had been exposed to fumes from a sulfur mine fire outside Mosul. This isn’t even related to those who are coming home with pulmonary problems from the infamous burn pits that I discussed in my last piece on Military Lungs. There are more and more questions being asked, including by Congress, Veterans Groups and other writers.
I keep wondering what else will come up. And I’m worried, because my husband is going downrange; we have good friends who are in Afghanistan, in Kuwait – and exposed to the blowing dust that contains who knows what; exposed to the burn pits that are still being used in Afghanistan; exposed to the building materials used by the “lowest bid” contractor to construct their living quarters.
When they come home with compromised lung capacity, they are hoping to come home to Clean Air, to being able to breath without worrying about what they might be breathing in. The air outside may not have that stench, may not have the smell of soot and burnt plastic; but is it safe? It’s depressing to realize that this question may only be answered with “it depends”. It depends where you are living! Downwind from a power plant – it depends. Downwind from a large manufacturer – it depends.
It depends on you and I taking a stand; it depends on us telling Congress we won’t allow the Clean Air Act to be stripped of it’s provisions; it depends on us telling Congress that the EPA is there to protect all of us from those who decide their short term profits supersede the need to be able to take a deep SAFE breath. Join Mom’s Clean AirForce, add your voice to ours!
Photograph by octal available on Flickr