Newswise — December 5, 2016 — 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.


About the AuthorMs. Barth may be contacted for interviews at Shannon.barth(at)

About ACOEMACOEM (, an international society of 4,500 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.

About the Journal of Occupational and Environmental MedicineThe Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine ( is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.

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