Examining Possible Causes of Gulf War Illness: RAND Policy Investigations and Reviews of the Scientific Literature
Nov 25, 2005
Volume 6: Oil Well Fires
(includes all revisions)
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When the Iraqi army withdrew from Kuwait during the Gulf war, it left the Kuwait oil fields in flames. Burning crude oil produces a wide range of pollutants. This report examines the peer-reviewed scientific literature regarding possible health effects on U.S. troops of exposure to the oil well fires. The author reports that measurements taken in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, where most troops were assigned, showed concentrations of pollutants to be orders of magnitude lower than recommended occupational standards in the United States and comparable to ambient levels. The literature review revealed no health effects associated with the pollutants at the levels measured during the oil fires. Particulate matter concentrations were high, but were largely attributable to sand granules of a size that can affect the respiratory systems of sensitive population subgroups such as smokers or asthmatics.
Possible Health Effects of Oil Fires
Findings and Conclusions
This research was sponsored by the RAND National Security Research Division and RAND Health.
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