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Gulf War Oil Well Fires

Photo by Jack Heller, USACHPPM, May 1991

In addition to the risk of sustaining combat casualties, some of the 700,000 US troops deployed during the Gulf War were also exposed to the smoke from hundreds of oil well fires that burned out of control over a period of about nine months in 1991. Depending on their proximity to the burning oil wells, veterans were exposed to varying levels of petroleum combustion pollutants. Now, Gulf War veterans can get an assessment of the health risks from their exposure to the smoke by logging on to a US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine (USACHPPM) Gulf War Fires web site.

To document the extent of the environmental pollution from the burning oil wells, USACHPPM gathered air and soil samples in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia from May 1991 until November 1991, when the last oil well was capped. By combining this sample data with troop location data, the personnel registry, satellite images, and meteorological models, USACHPPM can estimate a Gulf War veteran's exposure to oil well fire smoke and any health risk from that exposure.

By entering their social security numbers on USACHPPM's secure Gulf War Fires web page, Gulf War veterans can get personalized information about their exposure to oil well fire smoke, including a map of their units' known locations in theater, their health risk associated with exposure to oil well fire smoke and USACHPPM's method of calculating exposure and health risk. An online form makes it easy for veterans to request a signed copy of their exposure and risk report, and answers to frequently asked questions related to exposure and health risk calculations are also provided on the web site.

For those who would like to learn more about the oil well fires set in Kuwait by retreating Iraqi forces during the Gulf War of 1991, read DoD's Oil Well Fires Environmental Exposure Report.