Respiratory Issues Associated with Burn Pit Exposure
As shallow pits burned in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other military sites, soldiers stationed there could not escape the constant smoke and fumes that filled the surrounding air. These burn pits functioned as incinerators for practically anything that needed to be destroyed. Electronics, waste of all kinds (food, human, and medical), animal carcasses, weapons, pieces of wood, plastic, old tires, and more were all burned in open pits.
There were no regulations on open burn pits until 2009, when the government finally launched an investigation into the hazards caused by burn pit exposure.
Soldiers exposed to burn pits often had difficulty breathing, accompanied with symptoms such as itching skin, rashes, burning eyes, and more. While the VA has pointed out that most of these symptoms are just irritating but short-term, there have also been cases of more serious respiratory issues, including:
- Asthma – this can be hard to treat, and terrifying for the patient struggling to breathe. Many of the treatments have side effects and are not recommended for long-term use.
- Emphysema – generally seen in heavy smokers, this is a disease that progresses with continual damage to the lungs and their air sacs, which burst after some time. This condition cannot be cured.
- Constrictive bronchiolitis – this is another very serious respiratory disease characterized by fibrotic lesions that can make it very difficult to breathe and is also difficult to treat.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – an obstructive lung disease that results in shortness of breath and cough with sputum production. It typically worsens over time.
The VA continues to study the health effects of burn pit exposure, but a 2015 report showed that veterans who had been exposed to burn pits were more likely to report COPD, chronic bronchitis, or emphysema than those who did not.
Today, not only are veterans able to file claims for disability regarding exposure to burn pits, but they may also be eligible for the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. This allows for free exams that give veterans information about their current and long-term health. In exchange, the VA is collecting data on illnesses associated with burn pit exposure.
Are you experiencing respiratory issues due to exposure from a burn pit? If you would like to file an appeal or explore your options further, contact an experienced veterans attorney. Chisholm, Chisholm & Kilpatrick has over 25 years in securing veterans disability benefits. For a free consultation, call 401-331-6300 or contact us online.
Category: Veterans Law