Afghanistan, Iraq Soldiers Returning Home With Untreatable Lung Disease

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Malcom Ritter

NEW YORK — Some soldiers have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with an untreatable lung disease that interferes with their ability to do physical exercise, possibly caused by inhaling toxic material, doctors report.

The illness is rare in otherwise healthy young people, Dr. Robert Miller of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., and colleagues say in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.

Their analysis can’t show how common the condition is in the troops nor positively identify its cause. But 28 of the 38 diagnosed soldiers in the analysis had been exposed to a sulfur-mine fire near Mosul, Iraq, in 2003. That suggests they inhaled a significant dose of sulfur dioxide, a known cause of the lung disease, called constrictive bronchiolitis, Miller said in a telephone interview.

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