Hazardous Non-Combat Exposures in the U.S. Department of Defense

Pamela L. Krahl, Timothy M. Mallon, Joel C. Gaydos

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Hazardous non-combat exposures are inherent to military service and occur in three settings: installation workplaces, installation environments, and deployment environments. Few military clinicians receive training in how to recognize, assess, and manage patients with these exposures, and systems improvements are needed to support clinicians with respect to exposure recognition and management. This commentary highlights key concepts surrounding military non-combat exposures by discussing three case examples of exposures occurring in each of these settings. In the workplace, well-coordinated, interdisciplinary occupational health teams improve identification of exposure-related illnesses, and these teams may be further supported by the development of automated clinical decision-support systems. Installation environmental exposures are characterized by high perceived risk, uncertainty in estimating actual risk, and a wide range of stakeholders including military family members and individuals in the surrounding community. Recognizing environmental exposure concerns, gathering a thorough environmental exposure history, and practicing exposure risk communication are vital skills to address these situations. During deployments, exposures may initially be perceived as low risk but then become a concern years later. A functional understanding of the capabilities and limitations of exposure monitoring and potential health effects of exposures helps the military clinician effectively communicate potential health risks to line leaders. For any of these exposure settings, service public health centers and OEM specialty leaders and consultants are available for consultation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314-318
Number of pages5
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes


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