USAPHC personnel assess air quality in Kuwait

By Chanel S. Weaver, Public Affairs Office, U.S. Army Public Health CommandMay 21, 2013

1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A Soldier who works at Shuaiba Port, Kuwait, wears special cards capable of monitoring his exposure to various contaminants in the air. While they were in Kuwait, USAPHC team members conducted an occupational exposure survey of Army personnel working... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

A team of nine individuals from multiple portfolios across the U.S. Army Public Health Command recently completed a mission in a deployed environment more than 6,000 miles away from home.

The team deployed to Shuaiba Port, Kuwait, Feb. 4--17, to complete routine maintenance of the Mobile Ambient Air Monitoring Station, a USAPHC air monitoring system that identifies the level of such contaminants as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, ozone and carbon monoxide.

"The Shuaiba Port area is similar to industrial areas and petroleum refineries you'll see in the United States," said Abby Ross, an environmental scientist in the Health Risk Management Portfolio at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., who also served as the team's leader. "Military personnel have historically and understandably been concerned about what they see there and what they're being exposed to."

The U.S. military uses the port to transport heavy equipment in and out of the theater of operations. The U.S. military operates at five other locations in Kuwait.

The MAAMS provides USAPHC and Army Central Command personnel with a comprehensive, long-term record of the general air quality in the area. These records are accessible to medical professionals if information about environmental exposures is needed.

In addition to conducting maintenance and inspection of the MAAMS, USAPHC team members also conducted an occupational exposure survey of Army personnel working at Shuaiba Port to assess their exposures to airborne contaminants.

"We asked Soldiers at the site to wear special cards throughout their work day," said Ross. "These cards are capable of monitoring their exposure to various contaminants in the air."

She said this need for an occupational exposure survey began in September, in response to concerns of the Soldiers working there.

The mission in Kuwait required a diverse skill set from people throughout the USAPHC.

"Our team consisted of physical scientists, an engineering technician, several industrial hygienists, and Army environmental science and engineering officers," said Ross.

John Cambre, an industrial hygienist who works in the Occupational Health Sciences Portfolio at APG said he enjoyed the opportunity to support and work with the Soldiers to provide the expertise needed for the mission.

"The occupational exposure survey required trained industrial hygiene professionals with field experience to accurately assess and characterize the Soldiers' work environment to determine the types of chemical/physical agents present that could adversely affect their health," said Cambre. "The expertise we provided included the ability to characterize surrounding industrial operations, select the required sampling equipment and media, and implement a comprehensive industrial hygiene surveillance plan."

USAPHC personnel who participated in the mission said the opportunity was quite beneficial.

"Every day we communicate with and provide occupational and environmental health surveillance support to our military personnel deployed all over the world," said Ross. "The mission to Kuwait was quite rewarding, however, because it allowed us to see conditions first-hand, and to personally interact with the troops we're supporting."

Capt. Ayub Odera, an environmental science and engineering officer at Public Health Command Region--North, Fort Meade, Md., echoed Ross's sentiments.

"The most enjoyable aspect of this mission was the feeling that the interface between the technical knowledge and the Soldiers' jobs mattered," said Odera. "We were able to apply our knowledge to try and find practical solutions to Soldiers' environmental exposures thousands of miles away from home. Camaraderie within the team kept us going."

Other team members from the USAPHC who took part in the mission included Maj. Garrett Hines, Shawn Hueth, Capt. Judy Kirnon, Jennifer Mancini, Terry Meade and Mark Pippen.

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