Michael Sigmon

Project title: Where There’s Smoke, Is There Disease? A Study of Environmental Airborne Exposures in Soldiers Returning from Iraq

Degree: MPH | Program: Occupational and Environmental Medicine (OEM) | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 2007 | Faculty advisor: William E. Daniell


Soldiers serving in Iraq are exposed to a variety of environmental hazards which they often cannot avoid and frequently lack personal protective equipment for. Sixteen percent of soldiers are currently reporting environmental exposure concerns in post deployment health screening. There have no reports in the literature of any study of the association of these reported exposures and documented respiratory disease in soldiers returning from Iraq.

The post deployment health assessment (PDHA or DD Form 2796) was developed by the Department of Defense following the Gulf War. It is based in part on recommendations for surveillance programs that came out of a series of reports from the Institute of Medicine on the evidence for Gulf War Syndrome. Though the Institute of Medicine reviewed all published studies and could find no specific entity to account for Gulf War Syndrome, they did find the incidence of bronchitis and asthma in Gulf War veterans to be between 4 and 7%. Karlinsky et al found no significant increases in the prevalence of clinical abnormalities ten years later in a study of 1036 Gulf War veterans and 1103 non-deployed veterans based on self-report, medical review and pulmonary function tests. These studies highlight the intense interest in respiratory illness coming out of the Gulf War. They also highlight the difficulty in studying respiratory illness when the exposure occurs years prior. These difficulties led to the current system of medical surveillance. This study was designed to test the hypothesis that soldiers exposed to select airborne environmental hazards during their tour in Iraq are at greater risk of developing respiratory illness within 6 months of their return compared to those who are not exposed.

Taken from the beginning of thesis.