A Clinician’s Guide to Occupational Exposures in the Military

07 November 2023

Purpose of Review

Adverse occupational and environmental exposures are common causes of respiratory disease and health consequences requiring medical care. Understanding how these various exposures affect patients and how to elicit an adequate history is critical for any clinician. Military personnel are often overlooked when discussing groups at risk for environmental exposure-associated airway disease. There are close to 20 million active duty and veterans in the USA, and nearly all clinicians will at some point care for a patient that has served in the military.

Recent Findings

Exposures related to military work include burn pits, chemicals/toxins, sandstorms, and living conditions. Burn pits and military waste are increasingly recognized as potential hazards attributed to the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. The link between these various military exposures and acute or chronic airway diseases remains difficult. Epidemiological studies are emerging to demonstrate correlations with chronic lung disease and prolonged burn pit exposure.


This review provides an overview of potential occupational and environmental exposures that may affect current and/or former military service men and women.


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