Worth a Look: Soldiers Breathing Bioactive Metals

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What harmful element were found in war-zone dust

USA Today, 11 May 2011

Sand is made up of pure silica, but deserts also include minerals that have been deposited by long-gone lakes, ground water, wind and pollution. Navy Capt. Mark Lyles’ research team found 37 elements in samples of dust from Iraq and Kuwait, including 15 bioactive metals that are known to cause or have been linked to serious health effects with short- and long-term exposure, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Lyle’s team measured settled dust, which servicemembers breathe when it rises into the air during a dust storm. Though the government has standards for air pollution that can contain the following elements, there are no standards for exposures to toxic elements in settled dust. The metals Lyle’s team found include:

Aluminum (7,521 parts per million), which causes respiratory infections and lung disease, and has been linked to Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and other neurological diseases.

Arsenic (10 ppm), which can cause lung cancer and skin and mucous membrane irritation.

Barium (463 ppm), which can cause breathing problems, heart palpitations, muscle weakness, and heart and liver damage.

Chromium (52 ppm) causes lung cancer and respiratory ailments. Animal tests have shown hexavalent chromium to be extremely toxic when inhaled at any level.

Cobalt (10 ppm) can lead to asthma, pulmonary disease and pneumonia.

Lead (138 ppm) can lead to headaches, nausea, muscle weakness and fatigue.

Manganese (352 ppm) has been linked to metabolic issues, Parkinson’s disease and bronchitis.

Nickel (562 ppm) can lead to lung cancer, respiratory issues, birth defects and heart disorders.

Tin (8 ppm), which can cause respiratory problems, depression, liver damage, immune system and chromosomal disorders, a shortage of red blood cells, and brain damage that can lead to anger, sleeping disorders, forgetfulness and headaches, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vanadium (49 ppm) can cause lung and eye irritation.

Zinc (206 ppm) can cause anemia and nervous-system disorders.

Contributing: Sources: Mark Lyles, Naval War College; Environmental Protection Agency; Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Phi Beta Iota: BRAVO ZULY to all concerned.  Calculating “true cost” for any given endeavor must include information such as this (or Gulf War equivalencies that created 250,000 disabled veterans in Gulf I alone).