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War Related Illness and Injury Study Center

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Airborne Hazards

Airborne Hazards

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Many Veterans are concerned about exposure to airborne hazards after deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. Airborne hazards include particulate matter (PM) and gaseous air pollutants that may originate from the following sources:

  • Burning of human and non-human solid wastes
  • Smoke from structural fires and explosions
  • Smoke from burning oil wells
  • Dust and sand particles
  • Industrial and ambient air pollution
  • Air craft and automobile engine exhaust

The health effects of air pollution have been studied for many years throughout the world. Short- and long-term exposure to air pollution has been shown to be associated with adverse health effects on respiratory and cardiovascular systems. For more information, view our fact sheet.

The VA asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to review all the available scientific literature related to the possibility of adverse health effects of airborne hazards encountered by U.S. service members during deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan which was summarized in a 2011 report titled, “Long-Term Health Consequences of Exposure to Burn Pits in Iraq and Afghanistan”. The IOM determined that there was no evidence of an association between exposure to airborne hazards and specific disease but found some limited evidence suggesting an association between exposures to combustion products during deployment and reduced pulmonary function. Currently, it is unknown if reduced pulmonary function is a result of exposure to PM or combustion products and is a risk factor for the development of clinical disease later in life.

If you are concerned about possible exposure to airborne hazards you should discuss this with your healthcare provider. You can also learn more about the VA’s new Airborne Hazard and Open Burn Pit Registry by visiting the box for More Information on this page.