Since the 1990s, veterans deployed in Southeast Asia, Afghanistan, and Iraq have used open-air burn pits to dispose of waste. During both their occupation in the military and in the following years, many soldiers were diagnosed with asthma, sinusitis, and bronchitis. Because of the frequency with which they seemed to contract similar symptoms, many began attributing the illnesses to the contents of the burn pits.
With burn pits consisting of paint chemicals, medical and human waste, cleaners, aluminum, petroleum, and plastics, toxic fumes were released into the air and subsequently inhaled by soldiers in the vicinity. These hazardous emissions comprised of particulate matter, neurotoxins, hydrocarbons, carcinogens, and volatile organic compounds filled the atmosphere, surrounding the areas where military personnel lived, ate, and spent time. Consistent exposure to the thick, poisonous smoke led veterans to believe that the burn pits caused their respiratory complications.
The safety of open-air burns relates largely to the types of items being smoldered. For instance, deployed military men and women consume large quantities of water in plastic bottles each month. In order to discard the water bottles during the period of using burn pits, massive amounts of empty plastic containers were covered in jet fuel and set on fire. Generally, these fires burned for seven days a week, from morning until night.
In weighing whether or not the burn pits cause asthma, additional external considerations have to be made. Dangers for long-term health impacts can arise based on how long the burn takes place, physical location in relation to the hazardous elements, and the existence of other risk factors already present in the air.
More recently, this waste-disposal method has been widely discontinued. Still, numerous lawsuits have been filed by or on behalf of sick or deceased veterans. In 2021, the VA determined that there was enough conclusive evidence relating asthma, sinusitis, and rhinitis to the toxic burns.
If you were exposed to burn pits in areas of Southeast Asia, Afghanistan, or Iraq and you are suffering from asthmatic or breathing-related symptoms, do not wait to seek treatment. At Veteran Health Services Group, your respiratory health is our top priority. Our medical experts offer knowledgeable insight and informed diagnostic opinions. We know our veterans deserve top-of-the-line care, and we will work alongside you to manage any health challenges you might face. Please call us today at 833-218-2792 to discuss possible exposure and the treatment options that are available to you.