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NASA releases exposure tracker tool for War on Terror veterans

Jun 20, 2023Jun 20, 2023

Researchers will use NASA satellite data in their search for possible connections between War on Terror veterans’ illnesses and their locations during deployment.

A new tool, called Source-Differentiated Air Quality System, will help researchers who can then help clinicians in treatment, according to NASA and researchers. It can create charts and files of air pollution concentration at 1,200 bases in Southwest Asia since 2002 for each month. The tool can also provide data about type, severity and length of exposure veterans to pollutants faced by veterans with their exact deployment history.

"It's important to our efforts to understand and help address the risk our veterans face not just from combat, but from the conditions in which they served," said Eric Garshick, a pulmonary physician at VA Boston, in an April NASA press release.

Burn pits were used in Iraq, Afghanistan and other overseas bases to dispose of waste, sometimes including such toxic materials as made of toxic materials as fiberglass, medical needles and rubber. Soldiers also dealt with dust storms and other pollutants, putting them at risk of developing respiratory problems.

Data will be used to identify veterans potentially affected by the pollutants and research associations between certain pollutants and ailments veterans face, according to Garshick. Specifically, data from the tool will be used to help in a study of 5,000 veterans analyzing their ailments with their deployment histories, according to the release.

"It's very fulfilling to connect NASA data to efforts to support veteran's health," said Meredith Franklin of the University of Toronto, the lead investigator. "They put their lives on the line for our country, and they deserve every effort to protect their health." The project was funded by NASA and other researchers came from Harvard University, NASA and the VA.

Another NASA program to use satellite data to track health outcomes, Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols, is set to launch in 2024 with help from the Italian Space Agency, according to NASA.

Ian Munro, 757-447-4097, [email protected]