Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sleep Disorders Linked to Burn Pit Environmental Pollution

The Navy Times reports the causal connection between the exposure of US Troops to environmental pollution (open air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan) and resulting sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.  The study examined air pollution in Baghdad in combination with the high summer temperatures of 111 degrees.

“We found novel evidence for pollution and temperature effects on sleep-disordered breathing,” said Zanobetti, an author of the report “Increases in apnea or hypopnea were associated with increases in short-term temperature over all seasons, and with increases in particle pollution levels in the summer months.” The study was conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health.

The Navy Times reports a 600% increase in claims of sleep-disorder breathing by soldiers since 2000. The largest increase follows the initiation of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many returning soldiers have filed claims for Veteran's Administration benefits for sleep disorders based on their exposures.

The Harvard based research was based upon prior reports linking air pollution in seven major US cities with sleep disorder breathing. The previous study was published in a journal of the American Thoracic Society.

The current study was presented at the the 24th Annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies . "Results indicate that 86 percent of participants had sleep disturbances upon return from deployment and 45 days later even though the majority of them had no signs of post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. Soldiers were more likely to have sleep disturbances if they had a personal history of sleep problems, symptoms of physical illness or mild traumatic brain injury."

"This is the first study to describe the prevalence of sleep disturbances at two different time points in soldiers returning from deployment without any apparent physical trauma from blasts or amputation," said principal investigator Major Betty Garner, PhD, a nurse scientist in the Nursing Research Office at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany.  "The most surprising finding from this small preliminary sample was the extremely high percentage of sleep disturbances in soldiers even 45 days after they returned from wartime deployment back to the United States - the safe zone."

A lawsuit was filed alleging that KRB, Inc. (NYSE KRB) endangered the health and safety of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan by exposing them to huge quantities of toxic dust, fumes and other air pollution by burning unsorted was in vast open-air pits without any safety controls.