The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) estimates that hundreds ofthousands of veterans who served in the Gulf War in the 1990s and most recentlyin the conflicts in the Middle East may have been exposed to a myriad ofairborne chemicals and toxic substances because of burn pits.
Burn pits were used to destroy and eliminate everything that was notneeded during missions – including, but not limited to chemicals, toxicmaterials and unexploded enemy ordinance. Instead of eliminating thesesubstances in a safe and proper way, they were burned in pits, turning debrisinto a hazardous gas for everyone to breathe. Shockingly, by the army’s ownaccount, the pits were built and used to get rid of things, regardless of howthe process affected human health.
The US Department of Veteran Services has 110,989 service men andwomen listed in its burn pit registry. According to the registry, tens ofthousands of veterans suffer from lung, digestive and other neurologicalissues, all linked to the exposure of these burn pits. Just like the VA tookyears to acknowledge the lethal effects of Agent Orange, they are once againslow to assess and recognize the long-term impacts of burn pits.
According to a 2011 study by the National Academies of Science,Engineering and Medicine, because of the carcinogenic nature of many of thechemicals potentially associated with burn pits, it is prudent for the UnitedStates military to continue to investigate and document the instances of cancerand other long-term health outcomes in exposed military populations.
A study by the VA Public Health Department acknowledges that someservice men and women are experiencing many of the short-term burn pit healtheffects, including burning, dry or tearing eyes, nasal congestion, sneezing,sore throat and cough. Veterans with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma(or a natural tendency of asthma) may experience chronic lung problems,allergies, or may have respiratory symptoms that last for a longer periodbecause of the potential exposure.
It took the military many years to codify the harmful and deadlyeffects of Agent Orange on Vietnam veterans. Because of this, the VA suggeststhat every Gulf War, Iraqi and Afghanistan veteran exposed to burn pits –especially those who experience lung, digestive and neurological issues – getan official diagnosis from their health care provider. If you need help filinga claim regarding exposure to burn pits or any other issue, please visit theNevada County Veteran Services office, as we are here to help.
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter and for yourservice to our country.
David West is the Nevada County Veterans Service Officer. Reach him at (530) 265-1446 or firstname.lastname@example.org . The Nevada County Veteran’s ServicesOffice, 988 McCourtney Rd, Grass Valley, CA, is open from 9:00 a.m. to noon and1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.