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Toxic environments cause health concerns for veterans

Returning veterans may have many concerns, including adapting back to civilian life, which can be challenging enough. For servicemen and servicewomen who have been injured or develop symptoms as a result of their deployments, the 'coming home' process can be even more difficult. One former U.S. Army Specialist, who served in Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Storm, returned to the States just as healthy as she left it. Now, twenty years later, her medical records have stacked up, and not due to injuries caused by shrapnel or bullet wounds. She has been diagnosed with everything from lung disease and sleep apnea, to a recent diagnosis of terminal breast cancer.

Many who served in the Middle East over the last 30 years have experienced similar situations. What has been called Gulf War Syndrome as a way to describe and put a name to this phenomena, is now receiving support from environmental health researchers and physicians. Typically, exposure to the burning oil fields was considered to be the key component. Now, they are concerned that these health problems have resulted from environmental contaminants abroad.

The dust, for example, in these desert regions contain heavy metals and bacteria that Americans are not typically exposed to. According to December 2012 research, there is the possibilities that when the U.S. bombed facilities in Iraq which were containing and manufacturing sarin, a nerve gas, soldiers and civilians within hundreds of miles may have been exposed.

According to USA Today, the rates of neurological, respiratory and cardiovascular disorders have risen remarkably over the first decade of the new millennium. For example, the rate of neurological disorders has risen 251 percent according to the news agency's analysis of morbidity records.

Many returning veterans from previous deployments have faced similar health issues. Agent Orange, a defoliant commonly used in Vietnam has been linked to high cancer rates, heart disease and neurological disorders. Concerns of illness and disabilities for veterans can also bring about concerns about benefits and how to receive health care for these service-related issues. Attorneys familiar with the VA system and who represent those suffering from service-connected illnesses can serve as an excellent resource and enable these veterans to focus on getting better, not on getting what they need.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Gulf War Syndrome, Other Illnesses Among Veterans May Be Due To Toxic Environments," Lynne Peeples, Feb. 7, 2013

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