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Oil Well Fires during Gulf War

VA and research organizations continue to evaluate possible causes of Gulf War Veterans' chronic multisymptom illnesses, including exposure to oil well fires.

Join the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry to create a snapshot of your health and help us learn more about potential health effects.

Exposure during the Gulf War

Tank with fire in background during the Gulf War
  • Between February to November 1991, Iraqi armed forces ignited oil well fires, producing dense clouds of soot, liquid, aerosols and gases
  • Plumes of billowing smoke remained low to the ground, in some areas enveloping U.S. military personnel
  • Exposures were highest during wintertime encampments in Saudi Arabia

Health effects of exposure to oil well fires

Particles from oil well fires may cause skin irritation, runny nose, cough, shortness of breath; eye, nose, and throat irritation; and aggravation of sinus and asthma conditions. Most of the irritation is temporary and resolves once the exposure is gone.

Research does not show evidence of long-term health problems from exposure to oil well fires at this time.

If you are concerned about your exposure, talk to your health care provider or contact your local VA Environmental Health Coordinator to help you get more information from a health care provider. 

Visit the Deployment Health and Family Readiness Library to learn more about oil well fires and how they relate to your health.

VA benefits

Gulf War Veterans may be eligible for a variety of VA benefits, including:

Learn more about benefits related to Gulf War service.

Research on oil well fires and health effects

VA continues to monitor Gulf War Veterans' health issues and conduct research. Past research on oil well fires and Gulf War Veterans includes:

View more research on health effects of Gulf War service.

Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry
Environmental health coordinators directory


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