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Report: Afghanistan Burn Pits May Put Troops' Health At Risk

Burn pit at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan
Burn pit at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan

Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan is continuing to use open-air burn pits to dispose of waste, which is a violation of Department of Defense policy and may put troops' health at risk, according to an alert letter made public by John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

Sopko sent the letter today to General Lloyd J. Austin III (Commander, U.S. Central Command) and General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. (Commander of U.S. Forces–Afghanistan, and Commander, International Security Assistance Force).

In the letter, Sopko writes that the health of the roughly 13,500 U.S. military service members and civilian personnel based at Camp Leatherneck is being put in jeopardy because of the burn pits:

"The toxic smoke from burning solid waste each day increases the long-term health risks for camp personnel, including reduced lung function and exacerbated chronic illnesses, ranging from asthma to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease."

Camp Leatherneck spent $11.5 million to purchase and install four incinerators that remain unused. Sopko is urging Dunford to stop the burn pit use at Camp Leatherneck immediately, and start using the incinerators.