"The associations that were found in some studies [reviewed by the IOM committee] can't be overlooked," said Miller.
Miller's study, published July in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that nearly half of 80 soldiers in Fort Campbell, Ky., who could not pass a standard two mile run because of breathing problems, were diagnosed with constrictive bronchiolitis. More than 80 percent of those with constrictive bronchiolitis had been exposed to dust storms, and more than 60 percent had been exposed to burn pits.
"We did not have data that said these guys were sick because of burn pits," said Miller. "We have to follow these guys very closely."
Standard tests that are used to detect respiratory diseases, such as a pulmonary function test, may not pick up the soldier's condition.
Adam said throughout the deployment, doctors chalked up his coughing and shortness of breath to asthma he may have developed from the dust. Even when he returned stateside, his pulmonary function test results were clear.
"There are a number of them that are concerned that they're written off as being normal because their pulmonary function tests are normal," said Miller. "Some are concerned they're not eligible for disability, because even though they're not deployable, their pulmonary tests are normal."
Eight months after returning stateside, Adams underwent a CT scan which detected small lesions in his lungs. Adams' doctor immediately asked if he had been exposed to smoke from burn pits.
"I never even brought up the burn pits," said Adams. "I didn't think about it."
For many who are more commonly diagnosed with constrictive bronchiolitis, not even a CT scan can detect the disease. Only a lung biopsy works, Miller said.
"We're going to have to find a system to test for these lung disorders without telling everyone they need to go through a lung bippsy," said Miller.
Miller suggested that soldiers undergo a baseline pulmonary function test pre-deployment. Soldiers should then be administered another test once they return home to compare the results for any changes, he said.
Adams, a father of two, said he struggles to physically keep up with his young children.
"My lungs are scarred for the rest of my life," he said. "It could never get better for me. The damage is done."