Many U.S. service members are beginning to show a very disturbing trend: suffering from exotic cancers and rare respiratory complications. Burn pits are coming to the forefront as being responsible for causing these health problems, among others, with U.S. military personnel.
Burn pits are run by private independent contractors. They are large gashes cut into the Earth next to U.S. military installations and used to burn trash. According to many soldiers, however, there is much more than trash being burned in these pits. These pits are apparently being used to burn all types of hazardous and toxic materials:
- Old weapons;
- Ruined machinery;
- Rubber; and
The burn pits produce large black clouds that would permeate U.S. military installations and cause various symptoms and health issues not only among the troops on base, but the soldiers assigned to work in the burn pits. Symptoms include:
- Constant chronic headaches;
- Shortness of Breath;
- Lung problems;
- Memory loss; and
- The “Iraqi crud” (a constant cough producing darkened phlegm and was reported by soldiers in over 100 separate Iraqi and Afghanistan bases).
Many soldiers started to notice strange symptoms and submitted memos and complaints to their superiors focusing on the safety of being around the pits. In 2006, an Air Force bio-engineer filed a report backing up the soldiers’ claims about what had likely been burned in the pit:
- Rubber; and
- Benzene (an aircraft fuel known to cause cancer).
Rep. Tim Bishop (D- N.Y.) introduced a bill to create a complete list of burn pits, will register all troops exposed to them, and give those troops specific physical exams. That’s a beginning, but it isn’t enough.
A class action lawsuit was filed in Texas in December of 2008. The plaintiff list includes 300 service members and several contractors alleging the military contractor KBR is the source of their health problems.
While some steps have been taken to deal with the burn pit problem, it remains to be seen how this will end. When these soldiers enlisted in the armed services, it is doubtful this is what they intended when they pledged to give up their life for their country.
Learn more about the Iraqi burn pits and how they’re affecting U.S. troops.
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