Understanding Common Military Health Risks
Military veterans and their families serve a valuable role in protecting freedom around the world. While military veterans play an essential role in the modern world, they often face living conditions and environments that expose them to a variety of health risks. The following guide explores different health risks that soldiers may experience when deployed.
United States soldiers are often required to serve in areas that have sub-standard infrastructure, living conditions, sanitation, social safety and more. For example, soldiers deployed to countries like Iraq or Afghanistan often has to live and work in environments that reach 130 degrees F or more.
In addition, many soldiers are exposed to a variety of environmental and industrial toxins while they are on duty. In some cases, exposure to these toxins is a result of standard military protocol. However, exposure to some toxins can be a result of poor living conditions.
For example, many soldiers serve in areas that don’t have the same building regulations as the United States. For example, countries like Afghanistan don’t have the equivalent of the United States Environmental Protection Agency or the Food and Drug Administration. Because of this, soldiers may be exposed to environments that contain lead, mercury, heavy metals, dangerous pesticides, asbestos and a variety of other toxins.
In many cases, soldiers live in a base that was provided by a military contractor. Since some contractors may not be based in the United States, they may not have to comply with health and safety standards that are mandated by the United States. This can expose soldiers to a variety of serious health problems.
For example, some military vehicles manufactured by foreign contractors contain trace levels of asbestos. Asbestos is a natural type of mineral found in a variety of geologic deposits all around the world. These minerals have several properties that make them very popular with military contractors.
Asbestos are very good electrical and sound insulators. Because of this, they are often used to dampen the vibrations from a vehicle engine, gun turret and many other types of military equipment. While they can be effective for these uses, they may expose soldiers to small-aerosolized particles of asbestos.
Asbestos can cause mechanical damage to the DNA in one’s body. If an individual breaths in particles of asbestos, he or she may be at an increased risk of mesothelioma cancer, a serious form of lung cancer. However, it can take decades for mesothelioma to develop in an individual’s body. Because of this, an individual will probably not see mesothelioma symptoms from asbestos exposure for a long time.
Lastly, after exposure to chronic threats of loss of life in battle, many military personnel develop a wide range of mental health problems. Severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, are especially common. As a result, suicide rates are high in troops returning from war, and many continue to suffer from chronic psychiatric disorders and substance abuse issues. Immune suppression due to chronic stress also puts this population at risk for all types of health problems, including heart disease and various cancers.
Soldiers are exposed to a variety of risks in modern warfare. While many people know that soldiers are exposed to physical risk factors like IEDs and bullets, they may not know that soldiers are also exposed to many hidden risks. By learning more about the hidden risks that soldiers may experience, it’s possible to gain a deeper respect for members of the military.
Emily Walsh firstname.lastname@example.org