Thursday, August 12, 2010

VA Provides information to Veterans on Burn Pits

The federal VA has provided the following information on its Burn Pit webpage, including linked from the Gulf War webpage (


Information about potential exposure to toxins from burn pits, possible health-related problems and VA benefits

Open air burn pits have been used extensively in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of waste.

Many returning Veterans have expressed health concerns related to their exposure to smoke from burning trash and human waste.


Exposure to Toxins from Burn Pits

Man throwing trash into a burn pit
Photo credit: U.S. Department of Defense

The smoke from burning waste may release a variety of toxins into the air, which may blow into living and working areas.

The make-up of the smoke from burn pits:

  • Depends on what is being burned
  • May not be consistent from burn pit to burn pit
  • May not be the same over any period of time at any one burn pit
Types of Waste Burned

Waste products include, but are not limited to:

  • Chemicals (e.g., paints, solvents)
  • Incomplete combustion by-products
  • Medical and human waste
  • Metal/aluminum cans
  • Munitions and other unexploded ordnance
  • Petroleum and lubricant products
  • Plastics and styrofoam
  • Rubber
  • Wood waste


Possible Health Problems from Exposure to Toxins

Exposure to specific individual toxins may affect the skin, respiratory system, eyes, liver, kidneys, central nervous system, cardiovascular system, reproductive system, peripheral nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract.

Institute of Medicine Study on Health Effects

In November 2009, at the request of VA, the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM) began an 18-month study to determine the long-term health effects of exposure to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The report for the study should be completed and available by summer 2011.


VA Benefits

Veterans who were exposed to toxins released by burn pits during military service may be eligible for:


More Information on Burn Pits

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