Open air burn pits were used as a means of waste disposal on American military bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Djibouti after September 11, 2001. Substances including, but not limited to, human and medical waste, ammunitions, chemicals, metals, plastics, and fuel were burned in these pits, exposing military personnel to harmful chemicals and toxic fumes. Veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) have been effected by hazardous exposures from burn pits.
What Was Emitted by Burn Pits?
Department of Defense air sampling at Joint Base Balad in Iraq, home to a burn pit that spanned more than ten acres, showed particulate matter, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and toxic organic halogenated dioxins and furans (dioxins). Each of these substances can be harmful to the respiratory system, skin, central nervous system, and cardiovascular system.
What Conditions Are Caused by Burn Pits?
At this time, there is little conclusive research on the long term health impacts of burn pits. However, chronic respiratory conditions have been associated with exposure to particulate matter, and cancers and other serious chronic conditions have been linked to exposure to dioxins. The main dioxin released by burn pits is called TCDD and was also one of the major toxins in Agent Orange. TCDD has been linked to cancers and other serious disabilities.
The VA has not established a presumption for veterans exposed to burn pits like there is for veterans exposed to Agent Orange. Since there is no presumption, the VA adjudicates burn pits claims on a case-by-case basis.
The VA does not have a consistent approach to deciding these claims, so lay evidence from veterans is key to winning burn pits claims. Often, the VA does not have a way of proving veterans were near burn pits, so statements from the veteran themselves or buddy statements can help prove exposure.
These are some conditions that can be linked to burn pit exposure.
- Acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy
- AL Amyloidosis
- Autoimmune Disorders
- Bladder Cancer
- Bone Cancer
- Chronic B-Cell Leukemias
- Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP)
- Constrictive Bronchiolitis
- Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
- Glioblastoma Multiform, or other brain cancers
- Hodgkin’s Disease
- Intestinal Cancers
- Ischemic Heart Disease
- Kidney Cancer
- Lung Cancer, and other respiratory cancers such as the pharynx, larynx, etc.
- Multiple Myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Non-Ischemic Cardiomyopathy
- Parkinson’s Disease, Parkinson’s-like syndromes, including Parkinsonism
- Peripheral Vascular Disease
- Poryphyria Cutanea Tarda
- Prostate Cancer
- Soft Tissue Sarcoma
- Tonsil Cancer
If you were exposed to burn pits during your time in service and have developed a severe medical condition, our office may be able to help. Our office has successfully navigated complex burn pit–related claims to get veterans their benefits.