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Leaked Memo: Afghan ‘Burn Pit’ Could Wreck Troops’ Hearts, Lungs

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The memo’s findings contradict years of U.S. military assurances that the burn pits are no big deal. An Army memo from 2008 about the burn pit at Iraq’s giant Balad air base, titled, “Just The Facts,” found “no significant short- or long-term health risks and no elevated cancer risks are likely among personnel” (.pdf). A 2004 fact sheet from the Pentagon’s deployment health library — and still available on its website — informed troops that the high particulate matter in the air at Bagram “should not cause any long-term health effects.” More recently, in October 2010, a Pentagon epidemiological study found “for nearly all health outcomes measured, the incidence for those health outcomes studied among personnel assigned to locations with documented burn pits and who had returned from deployment, was either lower than, or about the same as, those who had never deployed” (.pdf).

Over the years, thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have experienced respiratory and cardiopulmonary problems that they associate with their service. Some have sued military contractors for exposing them to unsafe conditions. For months, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) has urged the military to create a database of vets suffering neurological or respiratory afflictions, a move that’s winding through the legislative process. But the military has argued it doesn’t have sufficient evidence to associate environmental conditions on the battlefield with long-term health risks — and it argued that months after this memo is dated.

“As recently as April, in correspondence with the Defense Department and in discussions with my staff, the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs both continued to maintain that research has not shown any long-term health consequences due to burn pits,” Akin tells Danger Room. “They also maintained that remaining burn pits in Afghanistan were away from military populations to reduce exposure. It is disturbing to discover that at least at Bagram the military concluded that burn pits posed a serious health risk.”

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3 Comments

  1. Comment by NEW YORK:

    I like many co workers hacked like we had TB. the medic would give you something for it to break up the mucus and off you go if you complain to much they will send you for a medical and next stop would be home and you only get 90 day’s to get back once you clear medical .If you go past 90 day’s they get rid of your ass .How does one avoid the Bagram Hack it’s their all day and night and we all march on for the sake of our family’s at home. at least we can complain or quit but the poor GI is stuck.

  2. Comment by Kenneth Stanfield:

    It’s sad to hear that our Veteran’s will be suffering from these likely diseases for the rest of their lives. Didn’t we learn anything from the Agent Orange in Vietnam and Ground Zero of 9/11? Why does it take so long to make changes to these health risks?

  3. Comment by Junior AKA Safety:

    I wanted to say I was the Associate HSE Coord at Balad JMMT in 2008 and I watched the airforce falsify their own investigation and cheat their own results. They placed their testers behind a wind brake so that way it would show false numbers. Wonder why there are pics of guys in yellow suits at ballad JMMT?

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