When she contracted the novel coronavirus, Elana Duffy remembered the acrid smoke she breathed in from her Army tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, where jet fuel burned everything from broken furniture to human feces in toxic pits.
“I actually was saying prior to getting [the virus], I wonder if I would get it because I feel like my lungs don't work the same way everyone else’s do,” Duffy said.
That’s because of the U.S. military’s tendency in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars to incinerate the immense detritus of war. Deployed servicemembers were frequently exposed on their bases to rancid fumes. At the burn pit near the entry control point of the massive Balad airbase in Iraq, Duffy said, “you’d sit there an hour sometimes waiting to be let in and out, and they’re burning everything from tires to medical waste.”
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