Cover: A Review of the Scientific Literature As It Pertains to Gulf War Illnesses

A Review of the Scientific Literature As It Pertains to Gulf War Illnesses

Volume 6: Oil Well Fires

Published 1998

by Dalia M. Spektor

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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.

This research was sponsored by the RAND National Security Research Division and RAND Health.

This report is part of the RAND monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of RAND from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

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