In Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas of the Southwest Asia theater of military operations, open-air combustion of trash and other waste in open burn pits was a common practice and created an "Airborne hazard".
The VA contends that evidence is lacking as to the long-term health effects to service members and veterans exposure to burn pits during active duty. However, its own fact sheet on burn pits notes both short-term and long-term effects can occur from the airborne smoke, causing burn pit diseases and conditions.
The VA fact sheet on burn pits says exposures to high levels of specific, individual chemicals that may be present in burn pit smoke have been shown to cause long-term effects. In some cases, it may negatively affect one's: skin, respiratory system, eyes, liver, kidneys, central nervous system, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, peripheral nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract.
Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services' Operation Burn Pit is addressing the toxic wounds of war through advocacy, partnerships and outreach. Our goal is for the VA to recognize that veterans being treated for certain types of cancers, tumors and illnesses caused by toxic exposure during service receive a presumptive service connection. To this end, the VA will presume that certain disabilities are caused by military service and exposure to airborne hazards. This presumption is because of the unique circumstances of a specific veteran's military service. If a presumed condition is diagnosed in a veteran in a certain group, they can be awarded disability compensation and services.
Dixon Center is a partner with several other organizations, mobilizing a national advocacy and awareness effort designed to engage policy makers, while forcing recognition of burn pit exposure. These include misunderstood injuries to the respiratory, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems, chronic pain, and certain rare cancers, as well as Post Traumatic Stress and Toxic Brain Injury.
You can learn more about the toxic effects of burn pits and our work addressing the issue during our Podcast Service Before Self Episode 004: History Repeating Itself: Exposure to Burn Pits and the Legacy of Agent Orange with Rosie Torres, Executive Director of Burn Pits 360.
In this episode Dixon Center VP of Programs and Services, Colonel (Ret.) Sam Whitehurst, your host, is joined by Rosie Torres, the executive director of Burn Pits 360, our partner organization addressing the effects of exposure to burn pits.