Veterans News: Burn pit registry
Proper disposal of waste during deployment is essential to prevent health problems and protect service members. In certain situations when sanitary and waste management facilities are unavailable, this waste may be burned in an open pit. Pits used for this purpose are referred to as “burn pits.”
Since any particular trash burn is made up of several materials, it can result in different mixtures of chemicals released in the smoke. Because of this, it is difficult to quantify the levels of exposure to harmful chemicals that an individual service member may have had. A person’s exposure is also dependent on how close they were to the burn pit, in which direction the smoke was blowing and the length and frequency of their exposure. There is little actual testing data that measured levels of possible toxins in individual service members’ breathing environments when burn pits were in use.
Short-term health effects can include nausea, headaches and irritation to the eyes, respiratory tract, nose and throat. For the majority of healthy service members, these symptoms tend to go away or resolve soon after the exposure ends. Long-term health effects can include skin conditions and problems with the respiratory system, eyes, liver, kidneys, central nervous system, cardiovascular system, reproductive system, peripheral nervous system and gastrointestinal tract.
Currently, the VA has not approved any presumptive conditions relating to burn pits due to limited scientific studies. As a Veterans Service officer, however, I recommend you file a service-connected disability claim if you feel you have a condition or conditions caused by exposure to burn pits. Your claim will almost definitely be denied, but at least you have it on record if the condition(s) is approved as a presumptive condition in the future.
Even if you don’t have any health problems at this point, I strongly encourage all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to register using the VA’s burn pit registry. To do this, go to va.gov. At the top under the “Health” link, go to “Public Health.” From there, go to the bottom of the page and click on the block that reads “Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry.”
Tammy Walters is available at (715) 369-6127 or firstname.lastname@example.org.