Burns pits were a common way to dispose of waste at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. A wide variety of items were disposed of using burn pits, and they were used continuously as a means of waste disposal at many military sites.
Studies are still being done on the potential health effects of burn pit exposure. Eligible service members can sign up for the Open Burn Pit Registry to document their exposures and health concerns.
Types of Waste Disposed of Using Burn Pits
Chemicals, paint, medical and human waste, metal/aluminum cans, munitions and other unexploded ordnance, petroleum and lubricant products, plastics, wood, rubber, discarded food, old uniforms, and more were disposed of in burn pits.
The health risks from burn pit exposure may vary depending on the type of waste that was burned and how close a service member was to the burn pits.
Health Risks from Burn Pit Exposure
The VA continues to study the health of veterans who were exposed to burn pits, but states that there is no proven association between burn pit exposure and long-term health effects at this time.
Many veterans who were close to burn pits experienced eye irritation, coughing, throat irritation, breathing difficulties, skin itching, and rashes.
Respiratory problems such as bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema have been reported by service members who participated in the Open Burn Pit Registry. However, the VA has not determined that there is enough evidence to make any conditions presumptive at this point.
What Veterans Who Were Exposed to Burn Pits Should Do
Veterans who were exposed to burn pits should strongly consider taking part in the Open Burn Pit Registry. The registry is open to anyone who served in:
• Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn
• Djibouti, Africa on or after Sept. 11, 2001
• Operations Desert Shield or Desert Storm
• Southwest Asia theater of operations on or after Aug. 2, 1990
The registry is free, and it is entirely separate from the process of applying for disability benefits. However, it does give participants a chance to document any exposures, and a free health exam can also be requested. The information gathered in the registry helps the VA determine what health risks may be present in veterans exposed to burn pits.
If you have a disability that you believe is related to burn pit exposure, you can apply for disability benefits through the VA. You will be required to provide evidence to prove your disability, and you will need to show a service connection.
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