BURN PIT FACTS AND REGISTRY
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Iraq Vets Are Becoming Terminally Ill and Burn Pits May Be to Blame
This article by Patricia Kime originally appeared on Task & Purpose, a digital news and culture publication dedicated to military and veterans issues.
The Iraq War killed former Minnesota Air National Guard Tech Sgt. Amie Muller. It just took a decade to do it.
That, at least, is how Muller's family and friends see it. The 36-year-old's pancreatic cancer, they believe, was caused by exposure to the massive burn pit used to dispose of waste at Joint Base Balad, 40 miles north of Baghdad. Her doctors said there was a strong possibility the burn pit was to blame, but no way to definitively prove a link with the available evidence.
Regardless, a young mother of three died in February from a disease that typically is diagnosed at age 71.
"It makes me really mad," Muller told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in June 2016, a month after learning she had Stage III pancreatic cancer. "I inhaled that stuff all day, all night. Everything that they burned there is illegal to burn in America. That tells you something."....
Burn pits at US bases in Iraq, Afghanistan blamed for veterans' illnesses
By KEN GORDON | The Columbus Dispatch | Published: March 5, 2018
Andrea Neutzling lives in fear of not being able to breathe.
She suffers from constrictive bronchiolitis, a rare, incurable lung disease. Her doctors blame her condition on the toxic smoke she inhaled from the trash burned in open pits during her year of deployment in Iraq with the U.S. Army.
Once a healthy high school athlete, Neutzling now takes along a portable oxygen machine whenever she leaves her house in the Meigs County village of Pomeroy. On particularly hot or cold days, she must employ special precautions, or her lungs could spasm.
"The pain is excruciating," she said. "It makes me want to vomit."
Neutzling was deployed to Camp Bucca in southern Iraq — one of hundreds of U.S. bases in Afghanistan and Iraq where trash was burned in open pits for years....
Read on by clicking the link below:
Excerpt from the book "The Burn Pits- The Poisoning of America's Soldiers" by Jospeh Hickman:
"Tens of thousands of American soldiers have been afflicted with rare cancers and respiratory diseases from The the smoke and ash swirling out of the "burn pits" in which military contractors incinerated mountains of toxic trash, including plastics, metals, medical waste and even human body parts.
To make things worse, these burn pits- which were built in close proximity to where solders lived and worked- were sometimes dug out of ground contaminated by old stockpiles of mustard gas and other weapons of mass destruction.
KBR, Kellogg, Brown and Root a subsidiary of Dick Cheney's Halliburton was one of the corporate beneficiaries of the Iraq War.
It is estimated that every soldier deployed to a combat zone would dispose of on average about 10 pounds of trash each day, resulting in hundreds tons of solid waste been burned in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Military practice of using open-air pits to incinerate trash is not new. Many foreign operation bases during the Vietnam war disposed of their garbage this way. During that ware American soldiers used canteens that they would refill at water stations. And they would eat their meals on reusable metal trays and plates with washable metal silverware.
In today's wars canteens, metal trays, plates and utensils, have all been replaced with plastic water bottles, Styrofoam plates and plastic utensils- all of which are serious hazards when burned.
In the 1970s, as Americans became more environmentally aware, incinerating garbage using open-air pits was outlawed in the United States.
Burn pits were still used on overseas military bases, but the Defense Department created guidelines for their use. In 1978, the DOD published a report titled "federal compliance with pollution control standards," stating that open air pits were to be used on military bases in foreign countries only as a temporary measure until an environmentally safer method to incinerate trash could be put into place. After the release of that report, US military bases around the world did seek to comply with the new guidelines, putting high temperature, mechanical incinerators in place.
Even more disturbing is the fact of the US military, which seems to have a rule for just about everything, did not create any regulations for constructing the burn pits when they were built in later in Iraq. By May 2003, there were over 250 burn pits, many operating nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week on US military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq. US military Central command(CENTCOM) put no health and safety regulations in place for these burn pits. No soil samples were taken before the pits were dug, and once the pits were operational, there were no omission tests done to monitor the pollutants being released into the atmosphere.
Camp Taji in Iraq, for example, burned approximately 50 tons of trash per day and it's burn pits. Ballad airbase in a Iraq where Amie was stationed burned even more trash, roughly 147 tons of trash per day. Many of the soldiers like Amie, were as close as a few hundred yards away from the burn pits and in some cases recreational halls and other facilities were built nearly adjacent to the toxic pyers. Almost immediately after the burn pits became operational, soldiers started voicing concerns to their commanders. They thought the burn pits were an environmental and health hazard, but their concerns went ignored.
From 2001 to 2009 the following materials were burning open or pits on military bases throughout Afghanistan and Iraq:
Petroleum, oil, lubricant products, rubber, tarpaper, asphalt shingles, tires, pesticides and pesticide containers, asbestos, how much Styrofoam, chemically treated uniforms, coated electrical wires, plastic, aerosol cans, gas cylinders, fuel cans, explosives, batteries, electrical equipment, medical waste, paint and paint thinners, human body parts. These materials, which were knowingly incinerated in the open air burn pits and released into the atmosphere, contained over thousands of toxins in carcinogens combined."
If you were to put these in your bonfire in your backyard, would that be ok? Many vets have lost loved ones because of per stupidity. 3 kids have to grow up without a mom because of the lack of concern for the safety of our veterans. There has been zero accountability and that is going to end. Amy Klobuchar has been a wonderful supporter of this issue and this is only the beginning.
The Burn Pit Registry
Marine Veteran Rebecca Crawford was so concerned with returning from her tour in Iraq with “two arms and two legs” intact that she didn’t give much thought to the fumes she was breathing while performing her routine job duties.
Tasked with providing base support, Rebecca’s duties alternated between sitting in a foxhole for 12 hours a day—securing the perimeter—to churning unknown mixtures of refuse, chemicals and human waste in open burn pits.
The use of burn pits was a common waste disposal practice at military sites outside the United States such as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Smoke from these pits contained substances that may have short- and long-term health effects, especially for those who were exposed for long periods or those more prone to illness such as individuals with pre-existing asthma or other lung or heart conditions.
The registry is a tool to help … identify health conditions possibly related to burn pits.
Some Veterans have reported respiratory symptoms and other health conditions that they believe are related to burn pits. There are studies that provide information about the health effects related to exposure, but not enough to determine the long-term impacts. In response, VA is conducting research on the issue and has created the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry for Veterans and Service members.
The registry is a tool to help participants become more aware of their health and to identify health conditions possibly related to exposure to burn pits and other airborne hazards (e.g., sand, dust and particulates. Participation is voluntary and the enrollment questionnaire can be used to identify health concerns, guide discussions with a health care provider and document deployment-related exposures.
Sees Value in Enrolling
Still young and with more than 10 years since exposure, Rebecca is healthy and undecided about participating in the registry. She, however, sees value in receiving updated news and information about the long-term health effects of burn pits.
“I think one of the benefits of enrolling in the registry would be if some new concerns came up about inhaling the fumes or the smoke, I would be notified quickly since they have my name and contact information,” said Rebecca. “The registry would make it possible for VA to contact me and say that we know you were exposed to burn pits and this is what you should be thinking about now.”
All Veterans and active-duty Servicemembers are encouraged to check their eligibility and participate in the registry. VA will use deployment data provided by the Department of Defense (DOD) to determine eligibility.
To access the questionnaire, participants will need a DOD Self-Service level-2 logon (DS-Logon). The DS-Logon is a secure, self-service ID that allows Veterans and Servicemembers to access several websites, including VA’s eBenefits and the burn pit registry, using a single username and password. Ensure your web browser has “scripting” enabled.
Veterans who are eligible for the registry are also eligible to obtain an optional no-cost, in-person medical evaluation. Participants already enrolled in VA health care should contact their primary care provider to schedule an evaluation. Veterans not already enrolled should contact an Environmental Health Coordinator at the nearest VA facility or call 1-877-222-8387.
Active-duty Servicemembers, including activated Reserve and Guard personnel, should contact their local military hospital or clinic to schedule an appointment for a voluntary medical evaluation. Please state that you are calling for an appointment specifically to address “health concerns related to the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry exposures.”
Sign up for the registry.
View frequently asked questions about the registry and how to sign up.
Fox News- February 8, 2017
A bipartisan bill has been introduced in the Senate that aims to finally help veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The “Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act” was introduced on Tuesday by senators Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and aims to create what they say is a ‘center of excellence” within the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Many of our brave men and women in uniform were exposed to harmful substances from toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we have an obligation to care for them,” Tillis said in a statement.
Klobuchar shared Tillis’ sentiment.
“With an increasing number of our brave men and women returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan citing illnesses potentially caused by burn pits exposure, it’s clear that we can’t afford to wait,” she said.
The issue of burn pits and their use on military bases during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been referred to as “the new Agent Orange," as scores of soldiers returned home from the fight with a myriad of health issues—many of which proved lethal.
Civilian workers and private contractors are also suffering from cancer, respiratory problems and blood disorders and, like military victims, they say they are being ignored.
During the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, burn pits were used to get rid of waste and garbage generated on bases. Everything was incinerated in the pits, say soldiers, including plastics, batteries, appliances, medicine, dead animals and even human waste. The items were often set ablaze with jet fuel as the accelerant.
The incineration of the waste generated numerous toxins. Thousands of U.S. military personnel who served on bases in Iraq and Afghanistan inhaled dense black smoke from burn pits which were often positioned right next to their barracks and base.
Nearly 64,000 active service members and retirees have put their names on a Burn Pit Registry, but documenting their plight doesn't guarantee coverage.
“It’s a failed registry. It doesn’t work. It could take 20-30 years for someone to get assistance,” Joseph Hickman, author of the 2016 book “The Burn Pits: the Poisoning of America’s Soldiers,” told FoxNews.com in April. “It’s not fair. They need help now.”
“The clouds of smoke would just hang throughout the base,” Army Sgt. Daniel Diaz, who was stationed at Joint Base Balad, in Iraq's Sunni Triangle from 2004-2005, told FoxNews.com last year. “No one ever gave it any thought. You are just so focused on the mission at hand. In my mind, I was just getting ready for the fight.”
Diaz returned from duty in 2008. A year later, he started developing health problems including cancer, chronic fatigue and weakness, neuropathy and hypothyroidism. Nearly every base he was stationed at during his four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan had burn pits nearby - and pungent smoke everywhere.
The new bill aims to help soldiers like Diaz by providing resources to the VA to give them the ability to better study the health effects caused by burn pit exposure and provide dedicated staff and resources to treat patients.
Still, victims' advocates fear the relief may not come in time to save men and women now suffering from the effects of burn pit exposure.
"We need a medical screening process in place now not in 20 years," said Rosie Torres, founder of Burn Pits 360, an advocacy group for service members who have fallen ill. "Our service men and women are dying now and many more will die by the time the center is implemented.”
Klobuchar wants center to study military burn pits' effect on vets
By military affairs| Mark Brunswick
APRIL 25, 2016 — 7:20PM
Thousands of military personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan were exposed to a variety of potentially harmful substances, including the smoke produced by the burning of waste on military bases.
Now U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is sponsoring legislation that would create a national center to study the effects of burn pits on veterans and members of the military.
The issue will take on increased importance as more veterans of recent wars show increased rates of cancer, asthma, emphysema, and even rare lung disorders. Exposure to dust and burn pits also has been shown to cause insomnia and high blood pressure.
Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., have introduced the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act. It would create a center within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions relating to exposure to burn pits.
During the Mideast wars, the military disposed of item such as plastics, aerosol cans, electronic equipment, human waste, metal containers, tires, and batteries by throwing them into open pits, sometimes dousing them with jet fuel, and setting them ablaze. It was common for smoke from these open-air burn pits to waft through the entire base and into living areas.
The VA already has established a burn-pit registry to get a handle on the scope of the potential problem. The registry allows eligible veterans and service members to document their exposures and report health concerns through an online questionnaire.
Those eligible must have served in Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn; in Djibouti, Africa, on or after Sept. 11, 2001; in Operations Desert Shield or Desert Storm; or in southwest Asia on or after Aug. 2, 1990.
As of three weeks ago, 65,320 veterans and service members had completed and submitted the registry questionnaire.
In an interview Monday, Klobuchar said the VA and the Pentagon seemed to have learned a lesson from the illnesses that arose from exposure to Agent Orange defoliant in the Vietnam era, when vets who complained of being sick were dismissed for a long time before the problem was finally acknowledged.
"For years they were in denial and finally the VA and Congress is setting aside money [for] the health effects of Agent Orange. We don't want to make the same mistake with this issue," Klobuchar said.
"There were dozens of these burn pits, so different people were exposed to different things. Maybe some may be fine and some people may be predisposed, but until they register and get a sense of what their symptoms are, they're not going to be able to trace what really happened."
An initial study on the health impacts of burn pits was inconclusive. But last year, the federal chief watchdog for Afghanistan reconstruction issued a report saying that the Pentagon had put the health of U.S. troops at risk by not following regulations on solid waste disposal, along with burning prohibited items in Afghanistan.
Once established, the center would conduct research on such things as clusters of illnesses for various burn pits, and would share best practices with doctors on how to diagnose and treat the illnesses.
"Right now no one quite knows what's going on except knowing there seems to be a common problem," Klobuchar said. "We'd want them to be using the data they've collected, instead of just having it sit somewhere."
BURN PIT STUDY RELEASED
March 3, 2017
A new study on burn pits highlights the need for more comprehensive data in veterans' health records.
The study, required by a 2013 law, also established a registry for servicemembers exposed to toxic chemicals generated from open burn pits. The study is a joint effort between the VA and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. To date, over 64,000 veterans have joined the registry.
However, the study identifies shortfalls in its work, namely the fact that the report was limited in scope and registries are, by nature, self-reporting tools.
As it stands, the authors of the study say a burn pit registry serves as a way for people exposed to hazardous toxins in burn pits to document their health problems and for the VA to compile a list of people interested in burn pit issues.
During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military has relied on burn pits as a way to incinerate waste and junk. This means things such as batteries, tires, and human waste have all been set ablaze, often with things like gasoline or jet fuel, and usually within close proximity to military bases.
A 2015 inspector general report found during the height of conflict in Afghanistan, the military generated about 440 tons of waste a day. According to the report, “[During] the first four years of contingency operations in Afghanistan, the U.S. military used open-air burn pits exclusively to dispose of its solid waste.”
Long-term exposure to burn pits has been thought to coincide with higher rates of certain types of cancer, respiratory diseases, and other illnesses. The VA continues to say there isn't enough research available to directly link any medical conditions with exposure to burn pits.
Still, the IG report called the continued use of burn pits “indefensible.”
For older veterans, burn pits bring up painful memories and comparisons to Agent Orange, the lethal defoliant used during the Vietnam War, whose toxic effects went unrecognized officially for many years.
The burn pit registry and study show both DoD and the VA need to capture more information in military health records. By including information like dates of service and location tours, health care experts can use big data to find clearer linkages between military service and health conditions.
Big data could eventually reduce the need for epidemiological studies and expedite the time it takes for symptoms to emerge and establishing presumptive status for toxic exposure.
“Ultimately, having more comprehensive health records saves not only time and money, but also lives,” said Cdr. René Campos, USN (Ret), MOAA's director of Government Relations for Veterans, Wounded, Ill & Injured Health Care.
- See more at: http://www.moaa.org/Content/Take-Action/Top-Issues/Former-Officers/Burn-Pit-Study-Released.aspx?utm_source=legis&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=BurnPitStudy#sthash.aGWfs9Im.dpuf
Statement of Rosie Torres- Co-Founder and Executive Director
of Burn Pits 360 Veterans Organization
before the State Committee on Public Health
March 7, 2017
Chairman Price, Vice Chairman Sheffield and Distinguished Members of the Committee:
On behalf of Burn Pits 360 Veterans Organization and 6,000 registry participants, thank you for the opportunity to share our testimony in support of HB 283 Texas Burn Pit Registry.
Burn Pits 360 is a federal 501c(3) non profit Veterans organization, located in Robstown, Texas.
Our mission is providing advocacy for Veterans, Active military service members and families of the fallen affected by deployment related toxic exposures, through outreach, research and support services promoting access to specialized healthcare, benefits and compensation. Burn Pits 360 manages a registry of about 6,000 participants. Currently we are the only organization tracking questions recommended by the National Academy of Science to include the option for a family of the fallen to submit a death entry by proxy and the option to report a decline in health function.
We formed Burn Pits 360 after we realized we were fighting a whole new war on a whole different battlefield. My husband served a dual role to his State and his nation as a Texas State Trooper for 14 years and Captain in the United States Army for 23 years. Upon return from theatre he became ill, his employer sent him home due to fear of him being contagious and that is when the journey began. Attempting to seek answers and health care from the DOD and VA healthcare systems, we faced a system of misdiagnosis and denial. His respiratory issues were diagnosed as anxiety only to be later diagnosed with a lung disease Constrictive bronchiolitis. We traveled the U.S. leaving our children behind in search of answers and specialized healthcare at Vanderbilt University, Johns Hopkins University and National Jewish Denver Lung Hospital. As a 23 year Department of Veterans Affairs employee who faced denial and scrutiny I realized that the only way to ensure no other family was served by denial was to form an organization.
Our grassroots efforts include the 2013 Open Burn Pit Registry bill 112-260 signed by President Obama which called for a joint longitudinal study by the Department of Veteran Affairs and Department of Defense. Our submission during the open comment period for registry revisions to the VA Office of Public Health resulting in the addition of constrictive bronchiolitis, presented our registry data to the National Academy of Science committee, presented statements to the Defense Health Board and annual participation at the VA/DOD registry symposiums all while forming an alliance with the Department of Veteran Affairs and Department of Defense.
Out of 3.5 million eligible to register for the AHOBPR-Airborne Hazards Open Burn Pit Registry only 101, 907 have participated in the registry. According to the recent report, Assessment of the Department of Veterans Affairs Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry released by the National Academy of Science on February 28, 2017 the committee concluded that, given the inherent weaknesses of the instrument, the best ways to make use of the AH&OBP registry are for those affected to use it as a tool to document their health concerns with their doctors and to supply the VA with a list of persons interested in burn pit exposure issues and to collect self reported data on exposures and health problems in respondents that might be used to stimulate research. The committee recommended should the VA choose to use the registry for this purpose, an epidemiological study needs to be conducted. An accurate assessment of exposure potential requires identifying possible toxicants, detailed deployment information, duration of deployment, living proximity from burn pits and job duty proximity from burn pits.
We are calling on The State of Texas to set precedence in establishing a collective repository that will allow us to conduct outreach to locate and serve those affected. Burn Pits 360’s registry has 72 cancer and suicide related death submissions of someone’s son, daughter, wife, husband, brother, sister, mother, father who are non-existent to the VA and DOD. Currently the VA and DOD offers no health program for specialized health care, no list of presumptive illnesses, no compensation benefits or death benefits for those suffering from the invisible toxic wounds of war. As a result, VA claims directly related to burn pit exposure are being denied, widows and their children are not receiving benefits, Veterans symptoms are misdiagnosed as psychosomatic conditions and so many are dying. It is our moral obligation as a nation and as a state to serve our military war heroes and their families suffering from a war that followed us home.
In the words of my dear friend Dan Sullivan, former executive director of the Sgt. Sullivan Center and brother of the late Sgt. Tom Sullivan, The scientific question today is how many people are suffering or have died, in what ways, and in association to what exposures. The medical question is how can we help them manage symptoms and extend their lives. The policy question is how can we find these injured men and women so as to provide them or their surviving families with benefits and the support of a gratefulnation for their sacrifice. Anything short of this is a distraction from our obligation to the wounded and the fallen heroes and their families.
Bill introduced in House of Representatives to help veterans exposed to burn pits
By: Christopher Diamond, March 23, 2017
Three members of Congress introduced legislation Wednesday that would provide aid to veterans exposed to toxic burn pits on military bases.
Reps. Elizabeth Esty, Ryan Costello and Betty McCollum introduced the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act, which seeks to create a VA center focused on the “diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions related to exposure to burn pits,” according to an Esty press release.
Burn pits on military bases are used to incinerate toxic items such as human waste, batteries, metal containers, tires, aerosol cans, plastics and other garbage. The items are often set fire after being doused with accelerants such as jet fuel, sending toxic smoke and fumes into the air around the base. Smoke from these burn pits can end up in living areas on the base, the release says.
“I’ve heard from veterans throughout Connecticut who are suffering – or know other service members suffering – from serious health complications that were likely caused by burn pits,” said Etsy, a Democrat from Connecticut.
“We cannot repeat our shameful inaction after the Vietnam War, when the government failed to acknowledge the terrible toll of Agent Orange. By passing this bill, we can significantly improve the quality of the care for veterans who have been exposed to burn pits, and help them to live longer, healthier lives,” she added.
The legislation has bipartisan support with Costello, a Pennsylvania Republican also sponsoring the bill, and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., as a cosponsor.
“The men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting our country must be able to access care for their health needs when they return home,” Costello said. “By establishing a center of excellence within the Department of Veterans Affairs, this bill is an important step forward in providing critical services for veterans facing health issues from burn pits,” he added.
The VA currently maintains a list of service members exposed to burn pits, according to McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat.
“We need to provide the VA with the resources necessary to examine and research the health effects caused by burn pits,” she said. “Our veterans exposed to these airborne toxins cannot wait any longer for the care and treatment they deserve."
Health effects associated with the burn pit exposure can include cancer, neurological and reproductive effects, respiratory toxicity and cardiovascular toxicity, according to the release.