Many soldiers returning to the U.S. following deployments are returning with various physical and mental ailments. Aside from common mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), many soldiers are returning with physical problems outside those “wear-and-tear” injuries normally associated with deployments.
Troops have been returning from that region of the world with strange and rare physical problems since the first Gulf War. Most recently, troops have been returning from Iraq with a very uncommon respiratory disease. Constrictive bronchiolitis has been discovered in multiple returning soldiers and may very well pose serious respiratory health problems for those soldiers throughout their lives.
Researchers studied 38 soldiers who had been diagnosed with constrictive bronchiolitis and found 28 of those soldiers were exposed to a 2003 sulfur-mine fire. Sulfur dioxide is a toxin and was present at levels of up to 125 parts per million in the smoke emanating from the fire.
People exposed to sulfur dioxide are more likely to develop some type of respiratory disease. Therefore, it is possible the mine fire produced a residue that may be responsible for causing the constrictive bronchiolitis. Researchers note, however, respiratory diseases were found in other soldiers deployed to other areas as well and they were not limited to the area surrounding the fire.
Constrictive bronchiolitis can cause physical limitations, and can escape detection in standard physicals and check-ups. Of the 38 soldiers in the study, 50% left the military with disability ratings.
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