Burn pits are large areas of land in which the U.S military and its contractors burned waste generated by military bases in Southwest Asia and Djibouti during the post-9/11 Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF).
When and Where were Burn Pits Used?
Open air burn pits were used throughout the majority of all operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Djibouti between 2001 and 2010. However, some bases still use burn pits today. A pilot project from the Center for a New American Security and the Wounded Warrior Project put together two maps to help veterans determine their exposure to burn pits.
What Was Burned?
Essentially all waste generated from military bases was added to burn pits. Some of the material included, but were not limited to: plastics, medical and human waste, chemicals such as paint and solvents, rubber, metal, weapons, Styrofoam, tires, batteries, and pesticides. Military personnel and contractors also added jet fuel to speed the burning of the materials.
What was in the Smoke?
Air samples from Joint Base Balad in Iraq have revealed the presence of:
- Particulate matter (PM) a complex blend of small particles and droplets of liquid which can pass through the throat and nose while a person is breathing. These particles can cause serious health effects involving the heart and lungs.
- Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a group of more than 100 chemicals formed by incomplete burning of organic substances such as gas and coal.
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemicals emitted from materials such as paints or disinfectants in the form of gasses. These gasses can be easily inhaled by a person in the vicinity of an open-air burn pit.
- Toxic Organic Halogenated Dioxins and Furans are a group of toxic chemicals known to cause damage to the immune system, reproductive system, and many types of cancer.
Approximately two-thirds of the individual chemicals found in burn pit smoke are known human carcinogens. The levels and presence vary by burn pit, depending on what materials were disposed of in them.
What Conditions are Caused by Burn Pits?
There is little conclusive research on the long term health impacts of burn pits. However, chronic respiratory conditions have been associated with exposure to particulate matter, and cancers and other serious chronic conditions have been linked to dioxins.
Some conditions that have been linked to burn pit exposure include:
- Acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy
- AL Amyloidosis
- Autoimmune Disorders
- Bladder Cancer
- Bone Cancer
- Chronic B-Cell Leukemia
- Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIPD)
- Constrictive Bronchiolitis
- Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
- Glioblastoma Multiform, or other brain cancers
- Hodgkin’s Disease
- Intestinal Cancers
- Ischemic Heart Disease
- Kidney Cancer
- Lung Cancer, and other respiratory cancers
- Multiple Myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Non-Ischemic Cardiomyopathy
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Peripheral Vascular Disease
- Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
- Prostate Cancer
- Soft Tissue Sarcoma
- Tonsil Cancer
How to Get VA Disability Rating?
To receive VA disability compensation for a medical condition from a burn put, veterans must establish service connection. The most common type of service connection is direct service connection. To establish a service connection for a veterans must demonstrate: (1) a current diagnosis of a condition related to exposure to a burn pit; (2) an in-service event (i.e. exposure to burn pits); and (3) a medical link between the current diagnosis and in-service event
Veterans Help Group have been supporting veterans in getting the benefits they deserve since 1995. If you or a loved one served, and were exposed to a burn pit we are here to help. Call Veterans Help Group at 855-855-8992 or complete our free veterans benefits case evaluation form.