US military veterans have high rates of potentially harmful respiratory exposures—which are linked to an increased likelihood of respiratory diseases, reports a study in the December Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).
Shannon K. Barth, MPH, and colleagues of the US Department of Veterans Affairs analyzed national health survey responses from about 20,000 veterans of the Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) era. About 13,000 veterans were deployed and 7,000 were non-deployed.
Both groups had high rates of potentially hazardous respiratory exposures: dust and sand, burning trash, petrochemical fumes, oil fires, or industrial pollution. At least one of these exposures was reported by 95 percent of deployed veterans and 70 percent of non-deployed veterans. High exposure (at least three out of five) was reported by 70 percent of deployed and 24 percent of non-deployed veterans.
Veterans with any respiratory exposure were more likely to have asthma, sinusitis, or bronchitis. At least one of these respiratory diseases was reported by 23 percent of deployed and 28 percent of non-deployed veterans with any respiratory exposure. There was evidence of a "dose-response" relationship—veterans with more exposures had higher odds of respiratory disease. The associations remained significant after accounting for smoking.
The results add to previous studies reporting increased rates of respiratory diseases among deployed OIF/OEF-era veterans. "Respiratory exposures should be considered a hazard of military service in general, not solely deployment," the researchers write. They emphasize the need for further research to determine if there is a causal relationship between respiratory exposures and diseases in veterans.
Materials provided by Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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