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The Effects of Exposure to Documented Open-Air Burn Pits on Respiratory Health Among Deployers of the Millennium Cohort Study

Smith, Besa MPH, PhD; Wong, Charlene A. MPH; Boyko, Edward J. MD, MPH; Phillips, Christopher J. MD, MPH; Gackstetter, Gary D. DVM, MPH, PhD; Ryan, Margaret A.K. MD, MPH; Smith, Tyler C. MS, PhD; for the Millennium Cohort Study Team

Section Editor(s): Teichman, Ron MD, MPH; Guest Editor

Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: June 2012 - Volume 54 - Issue 6 - p 708–716
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31825107f9
Original Articles

Objective: To investigate respiratory illnesses and potential open-air burn pit exposure among Millennium Cohort participants who deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Methods: Using multivariable logistic regression, newly reported chronic bronchitis or emphysema, newly reported asthma, and self-reported respiratory symptoms and possible burn pit exposure within 2, 3, or 5 miles were examined among Army and Air Force deployers surveyed in 2004 to 2006 and 2007 to 2008 (n = 22,844).

Results: Burn pit exposure within 3 or 5 miles was not associated with respiratory outcomes after statistical adjustment. Increased symptom reporting was observed among Air Force deployers located within 2 miles of Joint Base Balad; however, this finding was marginally significant with no evidence of trend.

Conclusion: In general, these findings do not support an elevated risk for respiratory outcomes among personnel deployed within proximity of documented burn pits in Iraq.

From the Department of Deployment Health Research (Drs B Smith, Phillips, and TC Smith, and Ms Wong), Naval Health Research Center, San Diego, Calif; Seattle Epidemiologic Research and Information Center (Dr Boyko), Department of Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, Wash; Analytic Services Inc (Dr Gackstetter), Arlington, Va; Occupational Health Department (Dr Ryan), Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, Camp Pendleton, Calif; and Department of Community Health (TC Smith), School of Health and Human Services, National University, La Jolla, Calif.

Address correspondence to: Besa Smith, MPH, PhD, Department of Defense Center for Deployment Health Research, Naval Health Research Center, 140 Sylvester Road, San Diego, CA 92106 mail to: besa.smith@med.navy.mil

This research represents Naval Health Research Center report 11–38, supported by the Department of Defense, under work unit no. 60002. Support for this work was provided by the Military Operational Medicine Research Program (MOMRP), a program of the US Army. VA Puget Sound provided support for Dr Boyko's participation in this research.

The content and views expressed in this publication are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Defense or the Departments of the Army, Navy, or Air Force, Department of Veterans Affairs, or the US Government. Mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations does not imply endorsement by the US Government.

The authors acknowledge that research protocol (“Prospective Studies of US Military Forces: The Millennium Cohort Study”, NHRC.2000.0007) received applicable Institutional Review Board review and approval. We certify that all individuals who qualify as authors have been listed; each has participated in the conception and design of this work, the analysis of data, the writing of the document, and the approval of the submission of this version; that the document represents valid work; that if we used information derived from another source, we obtained all necessary approvals to use it and made appropriate acknowledgements in the document; and that each takes public responsibility for it. Nothing in the presentation implies any Federal/DOD/DON endorsement.

In addition to the authors, the Millennium Cohort Study Team includes Paul J. Amoroso, Gregory C. Gray, Tomoko I. Hooper, Michelle Linfesty, James R. Riddle, Sheila Medina-Torne, and Timothy Wells.

The authors have no financial interest in this work.

©2012The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine