October 19, 2016
By Lorra B.
In Iraq and Afghanistan burn pits are a way to dispose of military waste.
According to a July 13 memo by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, exposure to burn pits do not pose any long-term health issues. However, military and civilian contractors have a very different view of the pits and refer to them as ‘the new Agent Orange,’ as thousands fall severely ill or die after exposure to the pits.
Since 2001 hundreds of these huge pits have been used to burn solid waste products. This, however, left those working the pits and those living nearby completely exposed to the toxic smoke.
With the growing concern and health issues, in 2009 The Department of Defense decided to limit when the pits could be used.
“DOD regulations require an incinerator to be used at any base where there are more than 100 personnel and base commanders to come up with contingency plans for the disposal of solid waste, noting burn pits should be a short-term solution only,” reports Stars and Stripes.
Though the spokesman for Operation Resolute Support, Col. Michael Lawhorn, stated at that time that “there are no burn pits operated at any U.S. base in Afghanistan,” we know that was not exactly true because DOD officials clearly stated that there were pits still being used in a limited capacity in Iraq and Afghanistan.
By 2015 the burn pits were back in full action. So what does this noxious smoke cause and what is being done to help the victims?
The burn pits cause symptoms that include respiratory problems, cancer and blood disorders and the victims of this toxic exposure say they are being completely disregarded.
Unlike the military who can go to the VA, no matter how inefficient some might be, the civilian has nowhere to turn.
A veteran who served in the 1980’s, 52-year-old Bobby Elesky, turned private contractor during the war in Afghanistan, wants to know, “Who’s responsible for us? Who’s going to start taking care of us?”
“We were all rounded up as vets from the [Department of Defense] because we were the best soldiers,” he said. “They asked us if we wanted to go, and shipped us to Afghanistan,” reports Fox News.
“There were times when the air quality was so bad that you would just drop to your knees and throw up,” he said. “We made jokes at the time because we had no idea how serious it was.’
“I’m a vet, but I’m not, according to them,” he said. “Because I was there as a contractor, I wasn’t allowed to sign up for the registry, which is b.s. to me. They already have all the data they need.”
There are almost 64,000 names on the ‘Burn Pit Registry.’ According to author Joseph Hickman, who wrote “The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers,” in 2016, it could take up to 30 years for the victims to get the help they need. A little too late don’t you think?
A letter was sent to President Obama, via the advocacy group Burn Pits 360, from 700 veterans imploring the administration to address the very real health issues and anguish caused by exposure to the burn pits.
In Veteran Affair fashion, they stated that there is simply not enough proof to support the health claims that the burn pits permanently affect those who are exposed.
Meanwhile, veterans and civilians alike are becoming gravely ill. The New Agent Orange claims more victims every day and every day more and more veterans and civilians are exposed to the burn pits.
The VA’s body count continues to rise.
By Lorra B