NASA Data Helps Track Veterans’ Exposure to Air Pollution

Researchers with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are using NASA Earth observations of smoke and other air pollution to study the health impacts on veterans who were deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, and other areas of Southwest Asia in the years after September 11, 2001. Military personnel who were deployed in these regions are at risk for developing respiratory problems due to exposures to particulate matter, smoke, and fumes from burn pits, dust storms, and other sources.

Working with the VA, NASA-funded researchers created an online resource that compiles NASA satellite data on air pollution around specific military bases. Eric Garshick, a pulmonary physician at VA Boston, said the resource will be used to conduct research to assess associations between medical conditions and exposures encountered during deployment and ultimately help medical researchers identify affected veterans.

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A detailed breakdown of objectives and applications can be found here from Meredith Franklin of the University of Toronto. Franklin is the principal investigator for the project.

The project team created this map of the study region showing satellite-observed aerosol optical depth on July 24, 2006, as an example of the exposure estimation capabilities they have created for VA. Credits: NASA/Meredith Franklin