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Glossary

Burn Pits Definition

Military burn pits are large areas of land in which the military and its contractors incinerated all waste generated by military bases, including plastics, medical waste, rubber, human waste, etc.

The U.S. military used burn pits as part of their waste disposal protocol in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan in the post-9/11 era during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. While the practice was effective in reducing large quantities of waste, burn pits emitted plumes of toxic smoke. This was especially problematic in places such as the Middle East, as the desert wind carried the smoke for miles.

Many U.S. military veterans have suffered health consequences from burn pit exposure. Most of the negative effects involve temporary ailments of the respiratory system, though limited evidence suggests a link between burn pit exposure and the long-term deterioration of lung health.

The Dangers of Burn Pits

Burn pits are dangerous due to the nature of the products being incinerated. The process of igniting waste in an open-air pit produces more toxins than the process of burning waste in a controlled environment such as an incinerator, making the risks associated with burn pits even greater.

Military burn pits in the Middle East typically contained the following items:

  • Human waste
  • Medical waste
  • Ammunition
  • Paint
  • Plastic
  • Rubber
  • Styrofoam
  • Other toxic chemicals
  • Spoiled food
  • Lubricants
  • Petroleum

In many of the locations where the military used burn pits, the air quality was already poor. The high level of allergens and pollutants in the air likely served to exacerbate the respiratory and lung problems caused by burn pit exposure.

Health Problems Caused by Burn Pits

Breathing in smoke from a burn pit can cause a wide range of health problems. Symptoms of exposure to smoke from military burn pits may include:

  • Coughing
  • Throat discomfort
  • Trouble breathing
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Leukemia
  • Pulmonary ailments

These symptoms may present soon after exposure or take years to develop.

The Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry

The short- and long-term effects of burn pit exposure are not yet fully understood. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) continues to study the effects of burn pit exposure on public health and general well-being. If you were exposed, you can aid the process by signing up for the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry online. This online database allows eligible veterans and service members to document their exposures and report health concerns, and helps VA study how veterans have responded to burn pit exposure.

For a Free VA Disability Consultation, Call 800-544-9144 Today

The veteran lawyers at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD may be able to help you receive VA disability benefits for the health conditions you have developed following burn pit exposure. For a free case evaluation, call our office today at 800-544-9144.

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