Dust storms - like this picture my husband sent me today from Iraq - are a regularly occurring nuisance in the Middle East. As this is Andrew’s third tour of Iraq, I've seen many photos like this one over the last five years that illustrate just how thick the dust actually is over there.
I can’t help but think this might be the culprit behind the mysterious respiratory illness Andrew has suffered repeatedly from just since his first Iraq deployment. Although the military doctors he has seen have never been able to diagnose the problem, he has complained of breathing difficulties and severe sore throats off and on since his 2006 deployment. Once I had to call an ambulance for him because he felt like he couldn’t breathe. He ended up being discharged from the Army hospital with an armload of different drugs but no idea what was actually wrong with him.
Apparently, I have good reason to be concerned. According to this Wall Street Journal article, http://on.wsj.com/ke5XzE, researchers now believe sand and dust from the Middle East might be making soldiers sick. Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have a higher rate of respiratory illness than those deployed elsewhere, according to a new study presented at the annual conference of the American Thoracic Society
earlier this month in Denver. The data suggests that U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are at risk for respiratory symptoms and diseases including asthma and constrictive bronchiolitis from exposure to airborne contaminants including desert dust and particulate matter as well as emissions from burn pits and industrial fires.