The Burn Pits: What Was Being Disposed Of—And Why Did It Make Veterans So Sick?

The Burn Pits: What Was Being Disposed Of—And Why Did It Make Veterans So Sick?

Open burn pits were a common way to dispose of waste at several different military sites. Burns pits were utilized in Afghanistan and Iraq (as well as other areas like Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and other areas in the Southwest Asia theatre of operations) with no standards for what was thrown into them and destroyed by fire until a government investigation resulted in stricter regulations in 2009. Before these regulations were created, many service members were exposed to the burn pits for extended periods of time.

The Use of Burn Pits

Old uniforms were incinerated along with munitions, electronics, plastics, human waste, and food waste. Carcasses were burned, old tires were burned, old wood was burned, and the list goes on. As service members and veterans became ill from constantly inhaling the smoke and fumes, it would be hard to point to just one item that was responsible for making them sick.

Veterans stationed at sites where burn pits were used commonly experienced difficulty breathing, along with other respiratory problems. While some of these health issues may be short-term, the long-term health effects of burn pit exposure are still being studied.

Long-term Health Effects of Burn Pit Exposure

The VA has stated that at this time, there is no conclusive evidence that burn pit exposure causes long-term health effects. However, the possible long-term health complications are still being studied.

A 2015 report from the VA found that veterans who were exposed to burn pits were more likely to report chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema than veterans who were not exposed to burn pits. It may be years before we have conclusive evidence on the health risks of burn pit exposure.

The impact of burn pit exposure may also depend on the proximity to the burn pits, length of time that the veteran was exposed, and the type of materials that were being burned.

If you are experiencing health issues and were exposed to burn pits, you can apply for disability benefits with the VA online, by mail, or at your regional VA office.

There is also an Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry which veterans exposed to the burn pits may be eligible for, offering free exams and complete medical workups.

If you are a veteran working to file a claim for disability benefits or want to file an appeal and need to speak with an attorney, contact one of the experienced attorneys at Chisholm, Chisholm & Kilpatrick. Call our office in Providence at 401-331-6300 to receive your no-cost case evaluation.

Category: Veterans Law