American Lung Association Testifies for Lung Health in the Military on Capitol Hill

Association calls upon the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to act aggressively to protect the lung health of all military personnel

WASHINGTON, DC (June 23, 2010)

The American Lung Association testified today about urgent lung health issues facing military personnel and the Department of Defense.  H. James Gooden, Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Lung Association, appeared before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense to urge that action be taken quickly to combat tobacco use in the military and address the growing health threat posed by burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Gooden also spoke to the importance of restoring an important lung cancer research program.

Gooden told the Subcommittee of the clear and present threat caused by tobacco use in the military.  "The alarming use of tobacco in the military has severe consequences," Gooden said. "It impacts troop readiness, impairs physical capacity, vision, and hearing, and increases the chance of physical injury and hospitalization." 

Currently, the smoking rate for active duty military is 30.5 percent, with smoking rates highest among personnel ages 18 to 25 – especially among soldiers and Marines.  The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that more than 50 percent of all active duty personnel stationed in Iraq smoke.  

Gooden also testified in support of the Lung Cancer Research Program in the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program and its original intent to research the scope of lung cancer in our military. 

"We were deeply disappointed by changes made by Congress last year," Gooden testified.  "This critical public health research program was cut by $5 million— which may diminish the effectiveness of this crucial research—and we ask that the funding return to $20 million."

In addition to the reduced funding, Gooden also told the Subcommittee that the Lung Association was troubled by the change in the focus of the important program.  "We request that program be returned to its original intent, as originally required by Congress, which directed the funds to be awarded competitively and to identify, treat and manage early curable lung cancer.

Gooden also spoke to the health threat posed by burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, after reports of soldiers who were exposed to them are now returning home with lung illnesses including asthma, chronic bronchitis and sleep apnea. 

"The American Lung Association is deeply concerned by reports of the use of burn pits and the negative effects on lung health on soldiers in both Iraq and Afghanistan," Gooden testified. "Emissions from burning waste contain fine particulate matter, sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and various irritant gases such as nitrogen oxides that can scar the lungs.  Emissions also contain chemicals that are known or suspected to be carcinogens.  We urge the DoD to immediately find alternatives to this method of waste disposal," Gooden testified.

Lung Association Also Testifies on Future of Postal Service

Gooden also spoke on behalf of the Alliance for Nonprofit Mailers, which the American Lung Association is a charter member, to the future of the U.S. Postal Service before a joint hearing of the Senate and House subcommittees that oversee the Postal Service.  Gooden testified that the Lung Association and other nonprofits have closely followed the news that the Postal Service has announced that it will raise postage rates in early 2011.   "Nonprofits will be forced to not only cut back on the number of pieces we mail but it will greatly impact nonprofit organizations' abilities to deliver key programs and services across this nation," Gooden testified. 

Gooden concluded that the Alliance for Nonprofit Mailers "believes the only solution is for the Postal Service to finally bring its infrastructure and capacity in line with actual demand." 

H. James Gooden is the 2010-2011 chair of the Board of Directors for the American Lung Association.  In this capacity, Gooden leads the organization's work to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. Mr. Gooden lives near historic Charleston, SC.

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About the American Lung Association: Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is "Fighting for Air" through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.lung.org.