A study released June 2 at the Symposium on Lung Health After Deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan links titanium and other metals in Iraq dust with dust present in the lungs of six soldiers.
According to a report in USA Today, “the dust is different from dust found elsewhere in that human lungs are unable to dispel it through natural immune-system processes. The Iraq dust comes attached to iron and copper, and it forms polarizable crystals in the lungs. The particles — each bit 1/30th the size of a human hair — have sharp edges.”
“We biopsied several patients and found titanium in every single one of them,” said Anthony Szema, an assistant professor at Stony Brook School of Medicine who specializes in pulmonology and allergies. “It matched dust that we have collected from Camp Victory” in Iraq. “They’ve inhaled metal. It’s not a little; it’s a lot.”
Szema theorizes that it is either naturally occurring, or that it may have been created by trash burn pits located close to soldiers’ sleeping quarters. These pits were used to burn everything from “Styrofoam to vehicles to computers to unexploded ordnance” in both Iraq and Afghanistan, USA Today reported.
Each of the six soldiers came into the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northport, N.Y., complaining of shortness of breath. USA Today reports that dozens have been “diagnosed with constrictive bronchiolitis, a narrowing of the lung’s smallest passageways that occurs only after exposure to an environmental toxin or in lung-transplant patients.”