What Is Burn Pit Exposure?

With the recent passing of the PACT Act, benefits have been expanded for U.S. Veterans who have been exposed to burn pit fumes. As USA Today explains, the PACT Act codifies many respiratory illnesses and cancers as related to burn pit exposure, “lifting the burden of proof on veterans to receive benefits.” But what exactly is burn pit exposure, and what makes it toxic?

What Is a Burn Pit?

The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) defines a burn pit as “an area devoted to open-air combustion of trash.” Commonly used in overseas locations such as Iraq and Afghanistan, military bases would burn their waste in order to dispose of it. 

VA notes that burned waste includes:

  • Chemicals 
  • Paint 
  • Medical and human waste
  • Metal/aluminum cans
  • Munitions and other unexploded ordnance
  • Petroleum and lubricant products
  • Plastics and Styrofoam
  • Rubber
  • Wood
  • Discarded food

As a result, toxic fumes are emitted from these burn pits, causing anything from temporary irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat to long-term respiratory illnesses and cancers that can be fatal.

I Was Exposed to Burn Pit Fumes—What Are My Options?

Join VA’s Open Burn Pit Registry

In 2014, VA established an Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry to study the health effects of burn pits by collecting data from Veterans. Whether or not you are experiencing symptoms or illness that could potentially be caused by burn pit exposure, VA encourages you to participate “if you served in Operations Desert Storm/Desert Shield (ODS), New Dawn (OND), or Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF).”

Claim Disability Benefits

Though the U.S. has not officially banned burn pits, their use has been scaled back since the mid-2010s. However, as of 2019, there were still some burn pits in use. If you have been affected by burn pits, our team at Veterans Help Group is here to help. Advocating for the disabled for over 15 years, we understand how to work with Veterans’ Affairs in the best interest of the disabled person. Contact us via our website or call 855-855-8992 to get more information.

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