It seems that every war or conflict has its own set of “health issues” for veterans. For the Korean Conflict, it was frost bite. For Vietnam there are 16 presumptive illnesses from exposure to Agent Orange. For those that served in Iraq and Afghanistan its respiratory illnesses due to exposure to airborne hazards from burn pits.
Burn pits are big holes where every conceivable type of waste was piled high and burned slowly. Plastics, batteries, appliances, medicine, dead animals, even human body parts and waste were doused with jet fuel and burned. Huge black plumes of smoke rose from the piles and releasing toxins into the air and water supply. Breathing dust, fumes, and other toxic substances from burn pits, exposed troops, contractors, and civilians deployed overseas to serious health hazards. Some of the chemicals were very toxic carcinogens and are deadly.
At US Senate hearings it was revealed that the toxic carcinogen, Sodium Dichromate, was spread across the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant near Basra, Iraq, exposing both soldiers and civilian contractors. An exposure to this chemical may produce: Chronic health effects, Lung and throat cancer, blisters and deep ulcers, damage to the septum, skin allergy, Asthma-like allergy, and kidney damage.
Thousands of returning veterans that were otherwise in perfect health before being stationed near a burn pit are now attributing various symptoms – leukemia, brain tumors, cancers, respiratory problems and even ALS to exposure to burn pits.
While the Department of Veterans Affairs currently does not acknowledge burn pit exposure illnesses for compensation yet, their website states “Veterans who were closer to burn pit smoke or exposed from longer periods may be at greater risk.” It goes on to state “Toxins in burn pit smoke may affect the skin, eyes, respiratory and cardiovascular systems, gastrointestinal and internal organs.” The Department of Veterans Affairs is in the process of establishing the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry that will allow OEF/OIF/ON and 1990-1991 Gulf War Veterans to document their exposures and report health concerns.
If you served during the Gulf War or anytime in Iraq and Afghanistan and suffer from health issues like the ones mentioned in this article, please contact my office or another Veteran Service Officer to get help. Our office is located at 135 N. Schuyler Ave, Kankakee or call at 815-937-8489.