Researchers identify new respiratory condition in soldiers

September 28, 2011

Elk Grove Village, IL – Almost 1 out of 7 soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have a newly recognized respiratory condition, according to research from the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northport, NY.

Researchers reviewed the health data of more than 7,000 active-duty soldiers in the New York City/Long Island area, one-fourth of which had served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Of the soldiers who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, 14.5 percent had respiratory symptoms leading to spirometry testing, compared with 1.8 percent of soldiers who served elsewhere.

The testing indicated “fixed airway obstruction” that was more consistent with lung injury than asthma, researchers said. Some possible causes of injury include inhaling dust grains, toxins and allergens; blast pressure or shock waves from improvised explosive devices; and smoke from open burn pits.

Researchers proposed calling the condition “Iraq/Afghanistan war lung injury.” To prevent it, they recommend soldiers use incinerators instead of trash pits, recycle rather than burn plastic water bottles and use respirator protection devices.

The study appeared in the September issue of Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, published by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.