Veterans Are Dying From Exposure To Burn Pits

All during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. military personnel and its contractors used burn pits to dispose of waste. Reports have noted that, depending on location, 147 to 400 tons of waste were burned – per day! Now, it appears now that veterans are now extremely ill or dying from their exposure this garbage disposal process.

As an example, one pit located at Joint Base Balad, Iraqburned

Computer parts, animal carcasses, medical waste (including body parts), lithium ion batteries, furniture, plastic bottles, insecticide canisters, DEET-soaked tents, human excrement, plastic drums, food waste, even whole vehicle.

And some of the contaminants 
emitted during this disposal process included

Dioxins, particulate matter polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, hexachlorobenzene, and ash.

Vets HQ has identified the specific locations of 268 burn pits at a number of different military installations and other locations across the east and middle east: Iraq (139), Afghanistan (93), Kuwait (12), Somalia (4), and other sites (20).

Burn Pit
Burn Pit

But what about the heath effects from burn pit contamination? In a 2011 report, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) made claims that

Found inadequate or insufficient evidence of a relation between exposure to combustion products and cancer, respiratory diseases, circulatory diseases, neurological diseases, and adverse reproductive and developmental outcomes.

But results from a 2015 VA survey, veterans reported

Respiratory diseases other than allergies, with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and chronic bronchitism, high blood pressure, have higher rates of common respiratory illnesses like asthma and emphysema, as well as rare lung disorders.

And veterans are extremely ill or are dying with a variety of different cancers (here  and here). Over the period of 2002 to early 2015, 16,304 were diagnosed with cancer, roughly a third with non-melanoma skin cancer, 16% with prostate cancer, another 10% with melanoma, 8% with testicular cancer and the remainder with lymphoid, colon, thyroid, breast and undetermined cancer.

In the mean time, Congress has introduced two bills: Senate bill, S. 319, Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits, and its corresponding House bill, H.R. 1279.

All veterans who were exposed to any of the previously mentioned 268 burn pit locatioins should go to the VA Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry – even if you are not sick. Information suggests it may take as long as 40 minutes to complete the process. At the present time, the VA reports that 110,907 service members have registered as of June 23, 2017.


Note: More information can be found in two VA reports:

Download Report on Data from the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit (AH&OBP) Registry, June 2015

Download Report on Data from the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit (AH&OBP) Registry, April 2015

As well as Joseph Hickman’s shocking book: “The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers”.


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Chuck Yarling has had many titles in his career thus far: veteran, engineer, math teacher, consultant, technical writer, book author and publisher, and triathlete. He was a member the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Bugles Across America, which plays Taps at military funerals and special events. Spec. 5 Chuck Yarling served with the 26th Combat Engineering Battalion in Vietnam as an awards clerk. His service with the U.S. Army resulted in being awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Army Commendation Medal. You may reach Chuck at [email protected]

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