The potential health risks of deployment to sites with open burn pits remain poorly understood, in part, because personal exposure monitoring was not performed. Here, we investigated whether postdeployment serum samples contain biomarkers associated with exposure to burn pits.
A total of 237 biomarkers were measured in 800 serum samples from deployed and never-deployed subjects. We used a regression model and a supervised vector machine to identify serum biomarkers with significant associations with exposures and deployment.
We identified 101 serum biomarkers associated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins or furans, and 54 biomarkers associated with deployment. Twenty-six of these biomarkers were shared in common by the exposure and deployment groups.
We identify a potential signature of exposure to open burn pits, and provide a framework for using postexposure sera to identify exposures when contemporaneous monitoring was inadequate.