AAAAI For Release
February 2015

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Dust in Middle Eastern Deployment Area Poses Significant Health Risks to Veterans

Reports suggest exposure to metals, minerals and microbes can cause lung injury

Houston, TX – A researcher from the US Naval War College has shown that exposure to dust from Iraq and Kuwait may cause acute and chronic health problems for deployed troops and the people who live there.

“Dust and sand storms are persistent problems in Middle Eastern regions because the environmental conditions -- extreme temperatures, very low humidity, and exertion -- create the need for individuals to breathe through their mouth, thus bypassing the nasal pharynx and pulling particles deep into the lungs. The level of total suspended particle mass taken along with environmental and physiological conditions constitute an excessive exposure to micro-particulates,” Mark B. Lyles, MA, MS, DMD, PhD, explained.

The study, presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Annual Meeting, analyzed the elemental composition, mineral content and microbial flora (bacteria, fungi and viral load) of dust gathered from Kuwait and Iraq. Researchers also examined the physical characterization of the dust, including particle size distribution.

“These mineralized particles at sizes ranging below 10 microns (PM10) were shown to exceed 10,000 ug/m3 which constitutes over 700 million particles per cubic meter. This is a tremendous amount of particles to be respired and inhaled. Levels for PM 2.5 were recorded at 1000 ug/m3 which is also important because PM 2.5 has been reported to cause cardiac symptoms and pathologies,” Lyles explained.

Viral analysis also reviewed a tremendous amount of virons with a large percent of RNA viruses which tend to have high mutation rates, high yields and short replication times. Cell culture and animal studies have also indicated a high level of toxicity.

“Lung biopsies from veterans’ tissue samples show alveolar sacs filled with mineralized particles. The mineralized dust is composed of calcium carbonate coated matrix of metallic silica crystals, hydrides and oxides containing a variety of trace metals like lead, chromium, vanadium, manganese, strontium, et cetera. The particles also consist of about 1% bioavailable aluminum and reactive iron each. Microbial analysis also reveals a significant biodiversity of bacterial, fungi, and viruses of which about 30% are known pathogens,” Lyles said.

Overall, the data suggests that the level of dust exposure commonly found in the Middle East, combined with its toxic microbial and metal content, poses a significant health risk to the deployed troops and civilians living in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.

“The acute effects of such exposure would cause shortness of breath and pulmonary inflammation whereas chronic exposure could cause scarring and other long-term respiratory problems,” Lyles emphasized.

For more information on the Annual Meeting please visit the AAAAI website. Please note that data presented does not represent the views and opinions of the U.S. Government or Naval War College.
The AAAAI represents allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic and immunologic diseases. Established in 1943, the AAAAI has more than 6,800 members in the United States, Canada and 72 other countries. The AAAAI’s Find an Allergist/Immunologist service is a trusted resource to help you find a specialist close to home.


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