What is a Burn Pit?
Burn pits were originally a temporary solution in military camps to the build-up of refuse and waste until incinerators and other permanent solutions were built. During the past two decades of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, burn pits that started off small, sometimes in refuse bins, have grown as large as 10+ acres and are a refuse place for every known item someone wants to discard. Including electronics, engines, human waste, and chemicals that, when heated, create toxic fumes.
What is Wrong with Using Burn Pits?
In most industrialized parts of the world, incinerators burn certain types of refuse, while other types end up in landfills or destroyed in specific ways due to the lethality of their fumes. However, in the Gulf War areas, no one is restricting what goes into burn pits, so the fumes have become very toxic. There is also the problem of so many different types of refuse that is burned that the types of illnesses are not consistent with one chemical that is necessarily common among all burn pit exposures.
What do they put in Burn Pits that is so Dangerous?
Examples of toxic and dangerous items thrown into burn pits include:
- Human waste
- Lithium batteries
- Paint and solvents
- Medical waste (including body parts)
Why are Burn Pits dangerous?
According to the VA’s page, there are supposedly no lasting effects that breathing in fumes may cause temporary coughing and redness or stinging of the eyes, but usually, do not cause lasting health effects. However, when in an area with a burn pit, you are breathing “particulates” of everything that is in the ash/smoke that is in the air. It wasn’t until just recently that the military started passing out particulate masks, but even still not everyone gets or wears them. Particulates from the items above settle in your lungs and can not only cause respiratory problems but depending on what the particulate is made out of, can cause a host of other conditions and illnesses. Particulates measures in 2011 contained polychlorinated dioxins (also found in Agent Orange), polyaromatic hydrocarbons, VOCs, and PCDDs.
What Illnesses are Associated with Burn Pits?
No illnesses are presumptive to burn pit exposure, although many of us are trying to change that. However, there are links to the following illnesses and conditions:
|Asthma||Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)||Liver toxicity and|
|Constrictive Bronchitis||Glioblastoma (brain tumor)||reduced liver function|
|Chronic Bronchitis||Neurological dysfunction||Leukemia|
|Stomach Cancer||Skin Cancers||Anemia|
|Respiratory Cancers||Kidney Disease||Cardiovascular Diseases|
|Reproductive Disorders||Peripheral Nerve damage||Vision damage|
What Can Veterans Do if They Were Exposed?
Veterans eligible for burn pit exposure include those who served during the following campaigns:
- Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn
- Djibouti, Africa on or after September 11, 2001
- Operation Desert Storm or Operation Desert Shield
- Southwest Asia theater of operations on or after August 2, 1990
Almost 200,000 veterans have already registered with the VA’s Burn Pit Registry. Registration helps to show patterns of illnesses that spur studies for links to exposure. The more veterans who register that have similar conditions, the more chances of linking the illness and pursuing presumption for veterans.
Can I File a Claim?
If a veteran has a health concern, getting an independent medical opinion is vital in identifying the health conditions and having an expert find scientific links for those conditions to the toxins that the veteran was exposed to. Please call Hill and Ponton for more information or for a free consultation of your claim.