Dirty War – How Burn Pits Continue To Plague Veteran Health

At the height of the Iraq war, large sprawling Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) were scattered across the country.  At Balad, a major FOB in the hearth of Baghdad, more than 250 tons of waste was burned daily, more than three times the amount of trash generated by a comparable sized city. This repeated itself at nearly every FOB and installation throughout the country. The effects would be profound.

At the height of the Afghanistan war, a study was conducted by the Inspector General (IG) to identify the extent of burn pit use. According to the special investigator, more than 410 tons of waste was being burned daily. Further, although more than $81.9 million had been spent on 23 clean incinerators, $20.1 was wasted because eight incinerators were never turned on or used.

The inspector general report was both open and honest in its findings. It laid blame at the foot of the contractors paid by the US government to ship, maintain, and use the incinerators for failing to do so. It blamed the government for continuing to pay those contractors. The chief company recognized for its failings was KBR, which operated in both countries.

Trash BurnResponding to these reports, hundreds of veterans joined a class action lawsuit against KBR claiming that KBR had a duty to safely remove the waste, and instead had directly caused the sickening of significant numbers of service members over thirteen years of war. The exact number of individuals affected is unknown, but from April to December 2014, more than 30,000 service members filled out the Veteran Affairs burn pit registry survey.

Initially the courts determined that the lawsuit was unfounded because a federal judge in Maryland declared that contractors working in war zones were afforded the same freedom from lawsuits that the US government had. This was due to the concern that allowing lawsuits would limit the ability of the US government to find contractors willing to work in future war zones. Fortunately for the more than 250 service members currently suing, an appeals court reversed this decision and the case can go on. KBR continues to claim that its practices were in line with military standards at the time and were doing nothing wrong. They further claim that there is still no link between the burning of waste and health problems.

While officially this is accurate, as the VA is still conducting its studies, service member’s health tells a different story. With individuals reporting constrictive bronchiolitis, cancers, and other terminal illnesses, it is hard to imagine that the exposure to burning trucks, paint, Styrofoam, ammunition, paint, tires, solvent, asbestos, human remains and pesticides did not play a role in these illnesses.

Much like the discussions of Agent Orange, it is likely that this issue will persist over the years. It is hard to deny that burn pits are unhealthy, and yet that is just what is happening. Service members are looking for hard answers to explain their untimely illnesses, and burn pits do present a logical answer. Hopefully the application of the law and the court cases currently in question will have positive effects both for the service members, and a future understanding about contractor obligations in a war time environment.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Kyle Soler

Kyle Soler is an active duty Infantry Officer serving in the US Army. He has served in the military for more than 10 years, working his way from an Infantry Squad Leader to a Company Commander with multiple combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan in between. Kyle earned his bachelor’s degree in History from Willamette University, and three Master degrees from Jones International University in Information Security Management, Health Care Management, and International Business. He also holds certifications in Six Sigma Lean and Six Sigma Lean Black Belt. His primary focus is realigning organizational priorities to get the most out of the time available in terms of training and development. Prior to entering military service, he worked as a fire fighter and an EMT. His areas of knowledge include military, training, leadership, disaster and continuity planning.
Kyle Soler

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6 thoughts on “Dirty War – How Burn Pits Continue To Plague Veteran Health

  1. Due to my exposure of the Burn Pits at Camp Bucca, my lungs got messed up. VA rated me 100%. I had my biopsy results and it shows I have Constrictive Bronchiolitis. Plastic water bottles was one of the main things burnt at Bucca. When plastic melts it releases dioxin gases… main ingredient of Agent Orange: DIOXIN.

  2. I think places like Balad have an advantage. They measured the amount of waste that was burned & kept a good amount of data on it’s burning operations. The VA will focus on places like that to approve claims & ignore those who were at bases where it was down & dirty & quite crude with no records being kept. I was at Camp Fallujah & they burned all kinds of stuff right across the field from where I slept. Yes, they burned during the day & I slept during the day after being out on missions all night. I do have breathing issues. I stopped going to the VA for the condition since they seemed reluctant to inform of anything. My outside pulmonary doc is at a loss on why my oxygen saturation randomly drops during the day. It think the VA will handle us like the vets who had Agent Orange exposure. They will key in on only certain exposures & ignore the rest until we are almost all dead.

    1. Camp Fallujah is on the list of known Burn Pits. You really have to fight the VA. And for Pulmonary you need a doctor that knows about Burn Pits issues. I have to drive almost 4 hours for Pulmonary care at Cincinnati VA, but they know what they are doing. And I agree, they are treating us just like Agent Orange vets.

  3. My breathing has deteriorated quickly over the past 18 months since returning home.

    I was a fitness enthusiast and now I can hardly breathe good enough to walk up a flight of stairs.

    I’m still on active duty. After a year of complaining of being short of breath I am finally getting the needed tests.

    It finally got to a point during a HALO drop that I was on 100% pressurized oxygen at 14000 feet and still felt as if I were going to pass out. Struggling to breathe the entire time.

    This is when I told the flight surgeon that I need some answers.

    I’m waiting on my follow up with the doc after numerous testing. I retrieved the results of most of the tests. Multiple granulomas is my lung, the valve that receives blood from my lungs is restricted and causing blood to back up into my lungs leading to fluid build up. My heart beats a faster pace trying to keep up and if left untreated will fail. My pulmonary function test with methacholine challenge had to be aborted after the first 3 doses and I was given breathing treatments to restore my breathing. The tech said “off the record, you’re going to need an inhaler and breathing treatments the rest of your life. The only fix is to have a valve replacement as far as the heart is concerned. It’s called stage 2 diastolic dysfunction and is a form of heart failure.

    I’m far too young to have these problems. I don’t know what the future holds, and I feel like I’m no longer in control of my life.

    Praying for all of those suffering from these Burn Pits, Gabe Peterson

  4. How do I get on this burn pit registry snd get more info on it.
    I have had three surgeries to remove a growth from my throat and it is coming back, I have had a sore throat since I got back from Afghanistan , plus I did three tours in Iraq

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