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How Do Burn Pits Affect Lung Health?

Exposure to smoke from Burn pits can have both short- and long-term effects on your lung health. While research is inconclusive to date, some studies have found modest evidence linking burn pit exposure to a number of lung ailments and other medical conditions.

Did you serve in the military and suffer exposure to burn pit smoke while deployed in the Middle East? If so, consider adding yourself to the Burn Pit Registry and discuss your options for applying for VA disability benefits with a lawyer.

Burn Pits and Lung Health

During both combat and non-combat operations in various regions of the Middle East, the U.S. military used burn pits as a way to dispose of most waste products. The products were dumped into a massive pile, and then incinerated in the open air. This process resulted in thick black smoke traveling through the air. Due to the dry air and heavy winds of the desert, this smoke traveled a significant distance from its point of origin.

When you breathe in the smoke from a nearby burn pit, your body often has an immediate, unpleasant reaction. Some of the lung effects you may notice right away from burn pit exposure include:

  • Coughing
  • Throat discomfort
  • Difficulty breathing

These effects mostly stem from the pungent and acrid nature of the smoke emitted by burn pits. This is due to the contents of the burn pits, including items such as:

  • Human waste
  • Medical waste
  • Toxic chemicals
  • Paint
  • Ammunition
  • Unexploded ordnances
  • Plastic
  • Styrofoam
  • Rubber
  • Wood
  • Rancid food
  • Petroleum
  • Lubricants

To make matters worse, open-air burning creates even more toxic chemicals than a controlled high-burning process such as an incinerator.

Additionally, the desert air is full of allergens and pollutants. The combination of all of these factors can be dangerous, especially for a person who is predisposed to asthma or other lung problems.

The good news for most people is, many of the immediate effects of breathing in burn pit smoke subside once you start taking in healthy air again. However, toxins from the smoke can remain in your body for a long time after the burn pit has died down.

Burn Pits and Long-Term Lung Health

The bigger concern shared by many combat veterans involves the potential long-term health consequences as a result of exposure to burn pit smoke.

So far, studies have pointed to a link between burn pit smoke exposure and a number of medical conditions, but have been inconclusive on whether a cause-and-effect relationship exists. Specifically, a 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which studied veterans exposed to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, found evidence of reduced lung function. However, the report acknowledges this evidence is limited in scope.

Getting VA Disability for Lung Problems Caused by Burn Pit Smoke Exposure

Because evidence of burn pit smoke exposure leading to lung ailments is inconclusive, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not grant presumptive service connection the way it does for veterans exposed to herbicides such as Agent Orange. But if you were exposed to burn pit smoke and later suffered lung problems, you can still apply for disability benefits, and VA will review your application on a case-by-case basis.

When you’re applying for service-connected compensation for conditions due to burn pit exposure, you should also consider signing up for the newly created Burn Pit Registry. While adding your name to this list does not result in automatic benefits, it helps create a record of your exposure for when VA is hopefully compelled to take more robust action in helping veterans who suffered burn pit smoke exposure.

A VA disability lawyer can help you put together a compelling claim for benefits based on your exposure to burn pit smoke and subsequent lung issues. For a free case evaluation with a team member at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD, call 800-544-9144 today.

Receive a Free VA Disability Consultation — Call Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD at 800-544-9144

The team of veteran lawyers at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD wants you to receive the benefits you deserve. We offer a free case evaluation with a member of our team. To speak to someone in our office today, call 800-544-9144.