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Posts Tagged ‘lung disease’

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

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Occupational Lung Disease – for most of us that conjures up Black Lung in a coal miner; silicosis in a quarry worker;  and for an old paralegal ahem from the asbestos days, asbestosis or worse in a worker in a boiler factory.  It isn’t usually a condition that we think of as an “occupational hazard” for a soldier.  But a new report from the American Thoracic Society changes that pretty quickly. [i]    

My husband has talked about the stench of the burn pits, the choking smoke blowing into his face as he walked by during the deployments in Iraq.  Our son and daughter in law both remember seeing trash and worse being burned at every base and post they were on during their deployments.  The smell is horrendous from burning the effluent from the portajons, the smoke carries so much more than just a smell.  The heavy metals from burning batteries, the chemicals from burning plastic – such a wonderful potpourri!  IAVA and other veterans organizations have been advocating, demanding information and testing for years.

The dust and sand that filter into every nook and cranny is sneaky.  When my husband came home on leave during his first Iraq deployment, he brought his laptop home and took it to a computer store to be cleaned out.  The geek who blew it out scolded him for not taking better care of the laptop (it was in an area that doesn’t get too many soldiers coming in!) and wondered where he’d been with all that talcum like powder.  We all know what he meant, right?  That stuff is in all their clothes when they get back, and I’m still finding it in the trunks, or poofing out of the duffel bags when we start packing his stuff for the next deployment;  I was complaining about it after the last deployment, he told me I should be honored- this was the dust that built the bricks of early civilization!   I was looking through some books he’d brought home, and could still feel it in my fingers.

  “We’ve described a new disease called Iraq-Afghanistan War lung injury (IAW-LI), among soldiers deployed to these countries as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation New Dawn” said Anthony Szema, MD, who co-chaired with Dr. Rose.

My husband calls this the Iraq/Afghanistan  “Agent Orange Syndrome”.  We remember how long it took for the VA and DoD to acknowledge Agent Orange as a reason for the diseases our veterans of Vietnam were experiencing; we aren’t going to let that happen again.

What does this have to do with MCAF and the Clean Air Act?  In my community- a lot!  Our servicemembers are coming home with respiratory problems.  To quote Dr. Szema:

“Not only do soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan suffer serious respiratory problems at a rate seven times that of soldiers deployed elsewhere, but the respiratory issues they present with show a unique pattern of fixed obstruction in half of cases, while most of the rest are clinically-reversible new-onset asthma, in addition to the rare interstitial lung disease called nonspecific interstitial pneumonitis associated with inhalation of titanium and iron.”

With lungs affected like this – do they need to be subjected to even more?  Since we can’t usually chose where we live, since DoD sends us to bases all over the country, are we going to end up on a base or post downwind from one of the coal fired powerplants that are spewing high amounts of particulate into the prevailing winds?  So, I figure that joining Moms Clean Air Force and working for clean air, isn’t just for my granddaughter, but also for her mommy and daddy, who were downrange of the burnpits in Iraq, and for her grandpa Chief, who is going to be walking around them again soon.  Won’t you join us?  http://www.momscleanairforce.org/


[i] American Thoracic Society (2011, May 18). Occupational lung diseases in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 28, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2011/05/110518105515.htm

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