Veterans who are sick now because of exposure to burn pits while serving in Southwest Asia and Afghanistan are urged to document their cases. Doing so entails signing up for the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. Through the site, veterans also can provide input that would help the Department of Veterans Affairs improve services.
Burn pits were used to dispose of trash that frequently included hazardous materials such as paint, plastic drums, batteries, ordinance and medical waste. In many cases, items that were tossed in to these fires produced toxic residue that permeated areas where troops were bivouacked or working.
The registry is secure. Veterans sign up online by filling out a questionnaire that VA would use to determine links between specific exposures and subsequent illnesses. Users can talk with a provider about their exposure history and health, schedule exams (subject to delay, due to COVID-19), and get information about ongoing studies. To date, some 215,000 veterans and service members have registered on the site.
The registry is open to veterans and service members who served in Southwest Asia on or after August 2, 1990, or those stationed in Afghanistan or Djibouti on or after September 11, 2001.
Besides Iraq, Afghanistan and Djibouti, the following regions are included: Bahrain; Gulf of Aden; Gulf of Oman; Kuwait; Oman; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; United Arab Emirates; the Arabian and Red seas; the Persian Gulf.
“In addition to encouraging eligible service members to register, we’re working across the Defense Health Agency and in collaboration with VA to make it easier for health care providers to access service members’ environmental exposure data and assess their health concerns,” said Steve Jones, Force Readiness and Health Assurance Policy director. “We’ll continue to collect critical data and gain a better understanding of ow airborne hazards impact our troops’ short- and long-term health.”
Bill Would Improve Data on Burn Pit Exposure; Another Introduced to Establish Presumption for Benefits (Sept 2020)
Exposure to noxious fumes that emanated from burn pits has triggered chronic cough, wheezing and shortness of breath and other problems among veterans who served in Southwest Asia, researchers with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded. However, their Sept. 11 report could not establish a definitive correlation between airborne hazards from toxic burn pits and other more serious ailments due to data quality issues.