1st Annual Symposium on Lung Health After Deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan February 13, 2012 Stony Brook, NY SUNY Medical
SERGEANT SULLIVAN CENTER REPORT
The following report summarizes some of the content of the First Symposium on Lung Health After Deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan at the State University of New York Medical School in Stony Brook on February 13, 2012. The Lung Health Symposium was made possible in part by funding from the Sergeant Sullivan Center. Sergeant Sullivan Center videos of speakers, presenters, and guests are also available here.
Lung Health Symposium
There is a growing body of medical evidence that military personnel who have returned from deployment are experiencing increased lung health problems of a severe nature.
One study showed they are being treated for asthma and asthma-like conditions at a higher than expected rate. Another study shows that returning military personnel are being diagnosed with condition called constrictive bronchiolitis that is extremely rare in young people. Military researchers reported the surveying mechanisms for assessing post-deployment lung health problems are antiquated and need to be updated to collect more useable data.
In the private sector, medical facilities at SUNY Stony Brook (Long Island), Vanderbilt University (Nashville), and National Jewish Health (Denver) are emerging as Centers of Excellence doing research and clinical work in this area. The facilities are becoming known for providing the most effective diagnosis and treatment of post-deployment inhalational exposures.
The symposium looked also at causation. There is a mounting body of evidence that toxic exposures may be a causative agent to for lung health and other post-deployment illnesses. The source of exposures may be smoke inhalation from war related fires and open air trash incineration, but this source has not been traceable to all situations in which there have been incidents of lung health and other problems. It may be important to consider smoke inhalation risks in the context of the unique air quality conditions in this region.
When it comes to pervasiveness of exposure, it would be nearly impossible to go to the Middle East theater without being exposed to and inhaling dust. Dust in this region is a complex particulate that can harbor microorganisms, toxins and heavy metals present in the environment, or those from fires and explosions long after these have occurred. The type of toxins, metals and microorganisms dust holds varies based on the size and location of the dust. The work environment in which a person is situated will impact the type of dust to which he or she is exposed.
For example, a sniper will inhale different dust than a helicopter pilot or vehicle driver. Not only do deployed military personnel inhale dust, but everything in Iraq is coated in dust, so they breath it and they ingest it.
Dust as a carrier of toxins into the body could partially explain why different people are getting different post-deployment diseases, for example lung problems, gastrointestinal problems, and neurologic problems, in that the array of toxins harbored by different dust particles varies. Together, smoke and dust inhalational exposures in theater, and the interplay between the two, may explain a variety of complex post-deployment diseases.
This summary was created for general educational purposes as a public service of the Sergeant Thomas Joseph Sullivan Center and is not medical advice.
Views expressed in interviews, commentaries, and reports are not necessarily those of the Sergeant Sullivan Center and are presented to provide information and multiple perspectives on the post-deployment illness, healthcare and research.