Attrition: The Dust Detectives Depend On DRUM

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February 19, 2012: The U.S. Army now suspects fine dust found in some countries can cause long term health problems. Some very fine dust can easily be breathed in and lodge itself deep in the lungs. Some of this dust contains toxic substances (lead, nickel, iron, sulfur, and so on) which can, over time, cause serious health problems. It is generally believed that fine dust, in general, is a widespread health problem.

By the 1990s it was known that fine dust was troublesome for gas turbines used in helicopters and M-1 tanks. It was eventually discovered that fine dust was a component of the mysterious "Gulf War Syndrome." This was confirmed when doctors in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait discovered that the movement of thousands of armored vehicles through the desert broke the hardened crust of so much ground that extremely heavy amounts of dust and sand were blown around during the April, 1991 shamal storms.

In Saudi Arabia, this proved to be a bigger health problem than the burning oil wells up north in Kuwait. That was because much of the hardened crust had never before been broken up (by over 20,000 vehicles moving through the desert) like that and released huge quantities of harmful bacteria and inorganic material that the locals had never breathed in such large quantities.

In an effort to try and get a handle on the dust problem, the U.S. Army is sending DRUM (Rotating-drum Universal-size-cut Monitoring) devices to the Middle East, Somalia, Afghanistan, and various other dusty places to take samples. The DRUM devices are sent back to army labs for study and storage. The army seeks to find out which types of dust is the most dangerous to people and machines and come up with ways to cope (breathing masks for people, filters for machines).  

 

 


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