Veterans' Respiratory Disorders: New study finds link between constrictive bronchiolitis and soldiers who served in Middle East

On July 21, 2011, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study entitled "Constrictive Bronchiolitis in Soldiers Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan" that should help some veterans prove their respiratory illnesses are service-related.

The study, conducted from February 2004 to December 2009, addresses the increase in respiratory disorders among soldiers who have served abroad in the Middle East. Eighty soldiers who experienced inhalational exposures while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and now fail to meet the U.S. Army's physical fitness standards were evaluated.

Of those 80, 38 of the 49 who agreed to undergo lung biopsies were diagnosed with constrictive bronchiolitis, a rare disease that could have been caused by inhaling irritants. In addition to sulfur-mine fire, to which many of those tested were exposed, some of the disabled veterans were subjected only to environmental exposures, including open-air burn pits, desert dust storms and combat smoke.

Dr. Robert F. Miller of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Dr. Matthew S. King of Meharry Medical College, two of the study's authors, first began searching for the cause of the rare disease in 2004 when previously healthy soldiers were referred by doctors at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital.

As quoted by The Navy Times, Miller said, "In a large majority of cases, they were elite athletes at the time of deployment. Now, they can't run two miles."

Read additional coverage on the bronchiolitis study by The Associated Press.

Read the full study in The New England Journal of Medicine.

If you or someone you know may have experienced adverse side effects or death as a result of burn pit exposure, contact Motley Rice attorney Joe Rice by email or call 1.800.768.4026.