Battle Over Burn Pit Exposure

Posted by Allison Sullivan on Aug 14, 2019 10:04:00 AM


Data Indicates Many Veterans are Suffering from Smoke Exposure Due to Burn Pits.

You may have heard about the Burn Pit Registry, but what exactly is it? Burn pits were a common way to get rid of waste at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently, the VA says that research does not show these burn pits caused any long-term health problems, but much like the veterans affected by Gulf War Syndrome, they are continuing to study it and have created a Burn Pit Registry to keep track of veterans exposed to the smoke and other elements. Nearly 170,000 veterans and current service members have entered information in the registry since it was launched five years ago. These numbers might be the first indication that there is a widespread problem affecting many service members with similar military service. 

What Was Burned in Burn Pits?

Burn pits burned many things including chemicals, paint, medical and human waste, metal cans, unexploded ordnance, petroleum products, plastics, rubber, wood, and garbage.

Health Effects from Burn Pit Smoke

The VA says that toxins in burn pit smoke can have temporary effects on your skin, eyes, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal tract, and internal organs. Those who were exposed to the smoke many times, or were exposed for extended periods may be at higher risk for health problems. However, scientists have not found any direct link between inhaling the smoke and permanent medical conditions which means the VA cannot provide compensation for conditions related to exposure, but they can provide free health care to all combat veterans for conditions possibly associated with service.

Read More:  10 Things You Should Know About Burn Pits

What’s Being Done?

Concerns began to arise when one specialist began to see numerous veterans who had been exposed to burn pits seeking treatment for similar health problems such as chemically-induced asthma. One of those service members began a nationwide registry for veterans who believe that their sicknesses were directly related to breathing in toxins from the burn pits. From June 2014 to December 2018, over 165,000 service members and veterans signed up for the registry. 

Much like Agent Orange and Agent Blue exposure for Vietnam Veterans, many of the health effects from chemical exposure are not determined and go undiagnosed until scientific studies prove cause for concern. Due to this process, the VA has created an "Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry," which lets veterans document their exposures and report health concerns through an online questionnaire.  If problems or a link between burn pit exposure and long term health effects are found at a later date, this registry will allow the VA to contact you and provide possible treatment and benefits information.

Many of these service members want the government to see that these illnesses are directly related to their service and their time abroad. Many of these veterans believe that they should be entitled to disability payments due to the development of this work-related illness.      

What To Do If You Were Exposed To Burn Pit Smoke

The first thing you should do if you notice health problems is set up an appointment with your VA doctor and let them know you were exposed to burn pits in the military. They will help you and get you enrolled in the Burn Pit Registry. You can also enroll in the registry even if you don't have any health problems.

You can enroll in the Burn Pit Registry if you served in:

  • Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn
  • Djibouti, Africa on or after September 11, 2001
  • Operations Desert Shield or Operation Desert Storm
  • Southwest Asia theater of operations on or after August 2, 1990

Check your eligibility and sign up. 

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Topics: Veterans Affairs