Burn Pit Toxic Emissions

Posted: August 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

Over objections from the Veterans Affairs Department, a House panel voted 29 JUN to create a registry of people exposed to toxic fumes and chemicals from open burn pits while deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. The registry would be used to monitor the health of service members and veterans to determine if there are any ill effects from being close to or downwind of the open fires used to dispose of solid waste in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the Defense Department has moved to install commercial-grade incinerators to dispose of solid waste, some open burn pits are still used in remote locations in Afghanistan. The risk of exposure to smoke and fumes from the burns have not been fully determined. The health subcommittee of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee passed H.R.3337, the Open Burn Pit Registry Act, sponsored by Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) who has been pushing for the creation of a database to track veterans' health and give them more information, as well as pressing the Defense Department to do more research into the potential health effects of burn pit smoke.
Akin's bill gives VA 180 days to establish the registry, and also requires periodic notifications to people on the list of developments in study and treatment of conditions linked to exposure to toxic chemicals. This is the second burn pit bill moving through the House of Representatives. The 2013 defense authorization bill passed by the House earlier this year includes a provision ordering the Defense Department, rather than VA, to maintain the burn pit registry. The public information campaign is a key element of the bill and so is the requirement for independent scientific research into exposure, said Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY) the health subcommittee chairwoman. Buerkle said studies done so far have been restricted by small sample sizes. VA, however, doesn't see the need for the registry. Officials say there are other ways to identify and track Iraq and Afghanistan veterans exposed to burn pits without a special registry – and they are not convinced burn pits even posed a serious problem. VA officials told the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, which is considering similar legislation, that an independent report by the Institute of Medicine "identified air pollution, rather than smoke from burn pits, as the most concerning potential environmental hazard." [Source: NavyTimes Rick Maze article 28 Jun 2012 ++]


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