Skip to main content

Listen

Read

Watch

Schedules

Programs

Events

Give

Account

Donation Heart Ribbon

Veterans Urging Congress And VA To Take Another Look At Hazards Of Burn Pits

Soldier stands in front of a military burn pit.

Credit: Disabled American Veterans

Above: Soldier stands in front of a military burn pit.

For U.S. service personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, "taking out the trash" often meant burning it. The military used burn pits to dispose of everything from car batteries to computer parts to human waste. Now some veterans say their health was impacted by those fires.

The Veterans Health Administration says it has not found a connection between burn pit smoke and a number of illnesses that veterans claim they have suffered since coming home. Veteran’s groups are lobbying Congress to look more deeply at the issue.

Representatives of several groups spoke recently before a House committee that included Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert.

“The burden of proof should be on the VA to prove it was not associated with burn pits," Ruiz said. "Right now when you have a 20-year-old or a 30-year-old coming down with esophageal cancer or brain cancer with no other risk factors. And they’re being worked up. Then they should get the care at the VA.”

Last month, Ruiz formed a Burn Pits Caucus to reach a bipartisan consensus on legislation. A bill was introduced to require the VA to conduct a more in-depth study. But Ruiz thinks the VA should start treating vets who show symptoms now.

“We don’t have the time to do a 10-, 15-, 20-year study, because we have veterans who are dying or who are becoming permanently disabled,” he said.

In 2014, the VA setup an Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry for post 9/11 veterans to share any symptoms they believe they’ve experienced. So far, more than 141,000 vets have signed up.

For U.S. service personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, "taking out the trash" often meant burning it. Veterans' groups say those trash fires are now creating health problems for vets.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.