Veterans Suffering from Titanium, Iron and Copper Dust Picked up at Iraq Base

Thursday, June 05, 2014
Burn pit at Bald Air Base in Iraq (photo: Julianne Showalter, U.S. Air Force)

Some U.S. soldiers still battling serious health problems from their tours in Iraq may have been exposed to metallic dust at a key military base used during the war.


Medical researchers in New York have found dust particles fused with certain metals, including iron, copper and titanium, inside the lungs of half a dozen soldiers suffering from constrictive bronchiolitis. The unique dust matches samples collected at Camp Victory, the sprawling U.S. military facility operated at Baghdad International Airport last decade.


“We biopsied several patients and found titanium in every single one of them,” Anthony Szema, an assistant professor at Stony Brook School of Medicine and specialist in pulmonology and allergies, told USA Today. “It matched dust that we have collected from Camp Victory.”


Szema’s research shows that 14% of service members who had deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan suffered from new-onset respiratory issues. The Defense Department has also reported increases in breathing problems from veterans.


The dust has proven not only unusual, but also taxing on the soldiers’ bodies. The bonding with iron and copper has given the dust “polarizable crystals” with sharp edges, and the human body cannot dispel the particles naturally. Lab mice exposed to the dust have experienced significant drops in their white blood cell count, impacting the immune systems.


While experts know where the dust was picked up, they can’t say for sure how it came into existence. Some say it might be naturally occurring, but others say it could be an environmental byproduct of warfare.


The dust could have been formed in the notorious burn pits used by the military to dispose of everything from plastics to computers to munitions. It is also possible the dust was forged during the 1991 Gulf War, when thousands of tons of ordinance were exploded, turning dust to metal in the process, according to scientists in Italy.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

New Research Links Iraq Dust to Ill Soldiers (by Kelly Kennedy, USA Today)

The Faceless Enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan that Has Harmed U.S. Vets: Burn Pits (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

VA Scientist Resigned over Alleged Cover-Up of Burn Pit Danger Data (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

U.S. Army Burn Pit Victim Dies after Battle with Leukemia (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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