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Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan

If you served in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) any time after October 7, 2001, you may be at risk of certain health conditions. Learn about these conditions and what to do to take care of your health.

What health risks should I know about related to my service in Afghanistan?

You may be at risk of:

  • Health problems caused by toxic chemicals or other hazardous materials in the environment, like:

    • Sand, dust, and particulates: Tiny matter found in the air
    • Burn pit smoke: Smoke from open-air pits often used to get rid of waste (like chemicals, paints, munitions, and other substances) at military sites in Afghanistan
    • Depleted uranium: Uranium used in military tank armor and some bullets
  • Injuries caused by:

    • Extreme cold: Health problems (like skin cancer in frostbite scars or pain, tingling, or numbness in the fingers and toes) caused by the effects of cold climates
    • Extreme heat: Health problems (like heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and sunburn) that can be caused by serving in hot desert climates
    • Toxic embedded fragments: Shrapnel and other metals (some containing chemicals) that stay in your body after an injury and can cause injury at the site of the fragment or in other parts of your body
    • Explosions: Explosions that can cause concussions and traumatic brain injury (TBI), an injury to the head that affects the way your brain works
    • Noise: Harmful sounds from guns, explosives, rockets, heavy weapons, jets and aircraft, and machinery that can cause or contribute to hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Illnesses caused by:

    • Infectious diseases: There are 9 infectious diseases related to Southwest Asia and Afghanistan military service. These are malaria, brucellosis, campylobacter jejuni, coxiella burnetii (Q fever), mycobacterium tuberculosis, nontyphoid salmonella, shigella, visceral leishmaniasis, and West Nile Virus.
    • Rabies: A disease that you get from a bite or contact with saliva from an infected animal
  • Occupational (job-related) hazards: Chemicals, paints, radiation, and other hazards you may have come in contact with through your military job

  • Side effects of Mefloquine (brand name: Lariam®): A drug given to military personnel to help protect against malaria (an infectious disease transmitted by mosquitoes)

What should I do now?

Take these steps to make sure you’re taking care of your health:

  1. Join the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry to document your exposures and health concerns. Join the registry.

  2. Talk to your primary health care provider or your local VA environmental health coordinator about any health concerns related to your military service. Find your local VA environmental health coordinator.

  3. Find out if you can get disability compensation (monthly payments) and other benefits if you have an illness or injury caused—or made worse—by your active-duty service.
    See if you qualify for disability benefits due to Gulf War Illness.
    See if you qualify for disability benefits due to contact with hazardous materials.

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