Titanium and other metals found in dust at a base in Iraq have been linked to the dust found in six sick soldiers' lungs, according to a study set to be released Monday.
"We biopsied several patients and found titanium in every single one of them," said Anthony Szema, an assistant professor at Stony Brook School of Medicine who specializes in pulmonology and allergies. "It matched dust that we have collected from Camp Victory" in Iraq.
The dust is different from dust found elsewhere in that human lungs are unable to dispel it through natural immune-system processes. The Iraq dust comes attached to iron and copper, and it forms polarizable crystals in the lungs, Szema said. The particles — each bit 1/30th the size of a human hair — have sharp edges.
"They've inhaled metal," Szema said. "It's not a little; it's a lot."
All of the veterans came in for help because they were short of breath, said Szema, who also heads the allergy clinic at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northport, N.Y. Dozens have been diagnosed with constrictive bronchiolitis, a narrowing of the lung's smallest passageways that occurs only after exposure to an environmental toxin or in lung-transplant patients.