Objective: Thousands of American troops were exposed to oil well fire smoke during the Persian Gulf War, but the actual impact of this on their health is unknown. To assess the potential association between physician-diagnosed asthma and objective estimates of oil fire smoke, we conducted a case-control study of Army Gulf War veterans.
Methods: Subjects were participants in the Comprehensive Clinical Evaluation Program. Cases had physician-diagnosed asthma; controls were selected from the population of noncases. The two estimates of exposure were cumulative exposure and number of days at high levels.
Results: A total of 873 cases and 2,464 controls were included. Significant associations were observed between asthma and both estimates of exposure, with an adjusted odds ratio of 1.4 (95% confidence interval = 1.11.8) for both the highest levels of cumulative exposure and days exposed to high levels. A dose response was observed for both exposure measures.
Conclusions: We found significant associations between asthma and oil fire smoke exposure. Because much of the medical history was not available, an etiological association cannot be determined from this study, and additional research is needed.