Leaked Memo: Afghan ‘Burn Pit’ Could Wreck Troops’ Hearts, Lungs
Burn pits remain in use across Afghanistan. And although a study by the Institute of Medicine and sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs found last October that there is insufficient data to correlate those pits with health risks, troops’ cardiovascular problems are clearly on the rise: There were 91,013 cases reported in 2010, up sharply from 65,520 in 2001. A 2010 study found half of a small sample of soldiers who struggled to run two miles had undiagnosed bronchiolitis. Hundreds of troops have sued the pits’ contractor operators after experiencing chest pains, asthma and migraines. For years, the U.S. government has pled ignorance about the causes of those veterans’ ailments. And unless the military formally acknowledges that the burn pits pose a long-term health risk, it will be difficult for veterans to receive long-term health care for associated respiratory and cardiopulminary ailments from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“The acknowledgement that air-sampling data is now indicating that burn pits may pose a risk of chronic illness to our servicemen and women validates the need for the national burn pit registry that I have proposed,” Akin says. Tarantino backs him up: “We don’t want another Agent Orange scenario, where it takes 40 years for the military to admit the stuff was bad and then has to spend all this effort tracking down affected servicemembers.”
The U.S. Army and the NATO military command in charge of the Afghanistan war did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Even casual visitors to Bagram know that the air is a menace. Within days of my most recent reporting trip there, in August 2010, I developed a disgusting, productive cough that kept me from sleeping comfortably. Airmen and soldiers joked with me about catching “Bagram Lung.”
But for at least a year, the U.S. military has known that “Bagram Lung” won’t stay at Bagram. There’s a significant chance that it will plague a generation of Afghanistan veterans for the rest of their lives. (click HERE for original article)