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Does Deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan Affect Respiratory Health of US Military Personnel?

Abraham, Joseph H. ScD; DeBakey, Samar F. MD, MPH; Reid, Lawrence MPH; Zhou, Joey PhD; Baird, Coleen P. MD, MPH

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

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: June 2012 - Volume 54 - Issue 6 - p 740–745
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e318252969a
Original Articles

Objective: To evaluate the association between postdeployment respiratory conditions and deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Methods: We linked deployment history of US military personnel with postdeployment medical records. We then conducted a nested case–control study.

Results: Relative to a single deployment, multiple deployments were not significantly associated with obstructive pulmonary disease (odds ratio, 1.08; 95% confidence interval, 0.82 to 1.42). Cumulative time deployed was also not significantly associated with obstructive pulmonary disease. Nevertheless, we did note that the rate of respiratory symptoms and encounters for obstructive pulmonary diseases (predominantly asthma and bronchitis) increased from before to after deployment.

Conclusions: In a population of active duty US military personnel, we observed an increase in postdeployment respiratory symptoms and medical encounters for obstructive pulmonary diseases, relative to predeployment rates, in the absence of an association with cumulative deployment duration or total number of deployments.

From the US Army Public Health Command (Drs Abraham, Zhou, and Baird), Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md; and Health Research and Analysis (Dr DeBakey and Mr Reid), Rockville, Md.

Address correspondence to: Coleen P. Baird, MD, MPH, US Army Public Health Command, 5158 Blackhawk Rd, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD 21010 mail to:

This work was supported by the US Department of Defense.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

©2012The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine