Lung disease of soldier linked to burn pits

By Kelly Kennedy – Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Jun 30, 2009 17:09:31 EDT

Even as military health officials continue to say there are “no known long-term health effects” caused by open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, a team of Army doctors says a soldier’s cystic lung disease is “related to the burn pits in Iraq.”  A second set of doctors, trying to determine why 56 soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division came back from Iraq short of breath, found each had bronchiolitis that could be diagnosed only with a biopsy.  That disease normally comes with organ transplantation, infection, rheumatoid arthritis or toxic fume inhalation. Because there was no scarring on the soldiers’ lungs, doctors decided it must have been toxic inhalation and added a fifth cause of bronchiolitis to their list: “Iraq.”  Since Military Times began reporting in October about burn pits in the war zones, 400 troops have contacted Disabled American Veterans to say they have breathing problems or cancers they believe came after exposure to the burn pits.  Many say they have been diagnosed with “asthma-like” or “allergy-like” symptoms when they’ve complained of shortness of breath, but their doctors can’t come up with an exact diagnosis.  Meanwhile, annual cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among service members have risen 82 percent since 2001, to 24,555 last year, while cases of all other respiratory illnesses have risen 37 percent, to 28,276, Defense Department data show.

Group Plans ‘National Day of Awakening’ on Mental Health

By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 30, 2009 – A Maryland-based troop-support group is planning a “National Day of Awakening” to highlight the mental health needs of military families and the services available to them.   “We are very excited about this opportunity to raise awareness and awaken the general public to the issues facing our military families,” said Barbara Van Dahlen Romberg, founder and president of Give an Hour, which provides free mental health services to redeployed troops. “In addition to a large day-long event in New York City, our goal is to have numerous community events going on simultaneously across the country.”   Give an Hour is planning the National Day of Awakening for October, and the New York event will include a gathering of mental health groups that provide services to military families at an outdoor venue. The event will be open to the public, and speakers and musicians will be invited to “entertain, inform and inspire,” Romberg said.   Gatherings across the country will include local and national military and veterans groups, corporations, local governments and community groups, she said.   Organizers hope The National Day of Awakening will fulfill several purposes, Romberg said.   “It will continue the critical process of educating all citizens on issues affecting our returning warriors,” she explained. “The event will serve to signal a new era of collaboration and coordination among organizations and individuals who have answered the call to serve this population. The event will also awaken all citizens to the huge resources available to servicemembers.”   Romberg added the events will provide an immediate focus for the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act for people interested in serving and helping troops and their families. President Barack Obama signed the act into law April 21. Among other provisions, it created the Veterans Corps as a new national service organization.   Army Spc. Jennifer Crane, a combat veteran who uses Give an Hour services, said she is pleased about the October event.

DoD and National Institutes of Health Take on Substance Abuse in the Military

By Ian Graham : June 29, 2009

WASHINGTON (American Forces Press Service) – Improved recognition, treatment and prevention of substance abuse among servicemembers is the focus of a recent collaboration between the Defense Department and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a senior defense official said.  “Readiness for the military mission is always our primary reason for existence,” said Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, the Military Health System’s director of strategic communications. “The health of our men and women in uniform is really critical to sustain that readiness.”  Kilpatrick spoke about department programs to prevent substance abuse, provide counseling and study the causes for substance abuse in the military during a June 24 audio webcast, “Armed With Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military.”  Dr. Timothy Condon, deputy director of NIDA, joined the show to discuss a NIDA initiative to study substance use and abuse in U.S. military personnel, veterans and their families.  NIDA hosted a public, multi-agency meeting in January to assess understanding and knowledge of substance abuse in the military environment. The agencies identified knowledge gaps, opportunities and possible complications regarding behavioral research and study in the military, Condon said.  “I think this was a very enlightening experience for both those who were part of the armed forces as well as those who were part of the academic community,” he said. “There really was a meeting of the minds.”


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