Not that long ago, a veteran asked me about the Burn Pit Registry. At that time I had no idea what it was or how to answer his questions. This being said, I did some research and found out a few things that affected me personally. I was able to call the veteran back and give the information he needed, but I also felt it was important to let as many other veterans know as well.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, burn pits were used to burn such things as chemicals, paint, medical and human waste, metal/aluminum cans, munitions and a variety of ordnance that was unexploded, plastics and Styrofoam, lubricant and petroleum products, rubber, discarded food, and wood. While at this time, research does not show that there are any long-term health effects, the VA is taking a proactive approach and continues to monitor and study the health of veterans who were deployed.
Some of the possible health effects that are being researched due to the exposure of the various toxins in burn pit smoke include (but are not limited to) issues with skin, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory, cardiovascular systems, eyes, and internal organs. This includes burning and irritation in the eye, throat and coughing irritation, breathing difficulties, rashes, and skin itching.
The high levels of fine pollution and pollution fine dust in the air are common in those areas and can an increase in the likelihood of developing respiratory problems than the exposure to burn pits on the military camps, according to a 2011 Institute of Medicine report, Long-Term Health Consequences of Exposure to Burn Pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As a result of the above mentioned report, the Department of Defense and the VA are working together to create:
- A standard evaluation and screening for Veterans and Service members who have complained about respiratory problems after returning home in order to improve care
- A long-term study which will follow the lives of Veterans for long time looking at their health issues as well as their exposures to determine the impact of being deployed to the areas mentioned above
The VA has established the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry which gives Veterans and Service members who are eligible to document when they were exposed and report any health concerns they may have.
Eligible Veterans and Service members include those who served in:
- Operations Desert Shield or Desert Storm
- Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn
- Africa or Djibouti on or after September 11, 2001
- Southwest Asia theater of operations on or after August 2, 1990
Check your eligibility and sign up! It will only take approximately 30-40 minutes to complete the questions and then your can request a free, optional medical evaluation if you want.
If you were exposed or think you were and are concerned, you should talk to a VA Environmental Health Coordinator or to your health care provider. Health care at the VA is available to all Combat Veterans for conditions that could be related to their service for five years after they have left the military.