Mesothelioma May Affect New Generation of Vets


There is mounting evidence that military veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan may be at risk for mesothelioma and other serious respiratory issues because of exposure to airborne toxins.

A recent issue of the Marine Corps Times tells the story of several veterans faced with huge medical bills because of mesothelioma or other serious respiratory issues. Mesothelioma is typically associated with inhalation or ingestion of asbestos. A number of veterans of Middle East conflicts believe the contaminants that they inhaled around open air burn pits or in desert dust is to blame for their rare medical conditions such as mesothelioma, constrictive bronchiolitis, or the newly-named “Iraq/Afghanistan War Lung Injury.”

Dr. Terry Walters, deputy chief consultant of the Veterans Administration’s environmental health strategic health care group, told the Marine Corps Times that the VA is working to understand unexplained health problems, such as mesothelioma, in vets but that the process takes research and time.

A portion of that research is already in progress at New York’s Stony Brook University Medical Center where Dr. Anthony Szema is studying veterans whose mesothelioma or other health problems may be linked to environmental exposures such as burn pits.  The ‘Burn Pits 360’ study will evaluate symptoms, diagnoses, place and date of assignment, age, gender and other data. The study has recruited nearly 300 veterans with exposure-related health problems like mesothelioma. Veterans interested in taking part in the study can enroll through their website.

Unfortunately, the problem of mesothelioma in veterans is not confined to soldiers who have served in the Middle East.  Veterans, particularly those who worked on or around ships that contained asbestos, comprise approximately 30 percent of all patients with mesothelioma. Navy ships build before the 1970’s had enormous amounts of asbestos used throughout the vessels.


Kime, Patricia, “Families link burn pits to health woes, debt”, February 6, 2012, Marine Corps Times website.
“Iraq/Afghanistan war vets suffering from a new respiratory condition?”, September 16, 2011, Industrial Safety & Hygiene News (ISHN) Magazine online.
Allen, John. “Veterans and Mesothelioma”, November 7, 2008, Veterans Today.

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