Oregon Public Broadcasting

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has written a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, asking him to help protect service members from air pollution in Afghanistan.

Most Afghans burn wood, plastic, and sometimes tires for warmth and energy needs. And the low quality of vehicle fuel available in the country means much more serious air pollution than in the U.S.

The Afghan EPA advises people in cities to wear masks during rush hour. Wyden says he saw it himself.

"This is not an abstract question for the Oregon Guard. I went to Afghanistan recently to meet with the 1186th Military Police Company. This was their top concern. The morning I arrived, they had just circulated a petition, everybody signed."

Wyden says he's asking the Defense Department for two actions: to make masks and other equipment available immediately to help service members protect their health. And to assist service members in adding to their health records what they're exposed to overseas.

Wyden says it's difficult for returning soldiers to track their exposures retroactively.

Several major studies have shown service members who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan are more likely to develop respiratory disorders.

This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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