Former Air Force Tech. Sgt. Tim Wymore, who was deployed to Iraq in 2004, suffers from an array of health problems that mirror Lovett’s. “Everyone has the same things,” said Wymore, who has inexplicably shed 40 pounds in the last few months. “It’s just weird.”
Wymore and Lovett — and countless others who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the desert region over the past three decades — have struggled to understand this, but they share one nagging conviction: These ailments are tied to service in a war zone.
Their suspicions — long rebuffed by insurance companies — are now getting support from some doctors and environmental health researchers, who suspect that American soldiers are being unnecessarily exposed to heavily contaminated environments while serving overseas. Even when not engaged directly in combat, they say, servicemen and women — typically without protective masks or other simple precautions — live and work amid clouds of Middle Eastern dust laden with toxic metals, bacteria and viruses, and surrounded by plumes of smoke rising from burn pits.