A new study has identified a clear link between lung issues reported by Iraq War veterans and dust present at Camp Victory. According to recent reports, almost 7% of service members who served near Camp Victory’s burn pit are demonstrating signs of severe lung injuries – a significantly higher percentage than service members stateside.
During medical tests of soldiers, pulmonology experts at the Stoney Brook School of Medicine biopsied lungs to identify the presence of foreign bodies. What they found is not surprising to anyone, but validates the claims of service members over the last decade in regards to exposure to noxious fumes and burning debris for months on end. Doctors found titanium and other metals present within the lungs, substances that cannot be absorbed or removed by the body’s natural processes. The samples matched the dust present at Camp Victory.
Much of the particles have iron and copper as well with sharp edges still present. Even at their small size, 1/30th that of a single human hair, they are breathed in by the service members and become caught in the lungs. The problem is getting more attention after recent reports from the Department of Defense that showed an increase in respiratory and chest symptoms from approximately 400 per 10,000 to almost 750 in 10,000 over a 12 year time span.
During this same time frame, and across the United States, Vanderbilt University Medical Center tested 50 members of the 101st Airborne, finding chronic bronchiolitis and the same samples as identified by the Stoney Brook School.
The Veteran Affairs has long stated that they cannot effectively determine a link between the burn pits and illnesses that service members are reporting. Regardless of whether the link is directly correlated to the burn pit, some of which burned more than 200 tons of trash a day, or to the extensive 1991 Persian Gulf bombings which melded dust to metal, the results are clear: service members are suffering.
As troops continue to self-identify their illnesses and check into clinics and hospitals, these numbers will continue to rise. The culture within the older generation of the military who would brag about never going to the clinic is finally going away. It is the responsibility of both the leadership and the service member to identify when an injury or illness is detracting from continued service, and to help treat it. In some ways, just giving people time to get things checked out is the most important element.
The linking of dust from the lungs to Iraq is both important and profound. It demonstrates a connection between military service and respiratory illnesses which will plague a service member for the rest of their lives. As there is no way to clean the metals out of the lungs, the problems will only continue. It is not only important that we recognize this correlation, but that we support these people through their transition and medically in the future. The government deployed the troops; it is now their responsibility to ensure that care for the troops is both appropriate and adequate as they move forward.
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