MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minnesota mother courageously shared her journey with pancreatic cancer after exposure to toxic burn pits while serving in Iraq.
Amie Muller died last year. Her story and others like it prompted lawmakers to demand the VA research the health effects associated with burn pits.
President Trump signed the bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, last week. It is the first step toward researching the prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
The 36-year-old Muller sounded the alarm about her condition.
“Her story kind of spiraled into something that raised even more awareness,” husband Brian Muller said.
Brian Muller worked closely with Klobuchar, who was determined to find out if exposure to toxic burn pits was linked to health concerns of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Her bipartisan bill has now been signed by the President and will create a Center of Excellence in the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“It just meant a lot that she took Amie’s story and did something with it. It’s going to be a place where they can diagnose and research all stuff related to environmental exposures,” Brian Muller said.
He hopes it will help veterans and their families who are where Amie Muller was, trying to understand what was wrong. He recognizes this is part of her legacy of always helping others.
“So they’re going to be able to find treatment plans and hopefully study the effects and maybe one day we’ll really truly understand the effects these burn pits really had on our soldiers,” Brian Muller said.
Funding is still needed for the center, and the location has yet to be decided. More than 157,000 veterans have signed up for the Burn Pit Registry.
Here is the full press release from Klobuchar’s office:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) announced that their bipartisan legislation to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits is headed to the President’s desk to be signed into law. The provisions, based on the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act, were included in the Senate and House-passed Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act and would create a Center of Excellence in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) focused on researching the health effects associated with burn pits and treating veterans who become sick after exposure.
“After the Vietnam War, it took the U.S. government years to recognize that there was a link between Agent Orange and its devastating health effects on our soldiers. With an increasing number of service members returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan citing illnesses, we can’t make that same tragic mistake again by failing to identify the devastating health effects associated with burn pits,” Klobuchar said. “This legislation will make sure we have the staff and resources to treat the health problems of our veterans exposed to burn pits, helping us do right by our veterans and help ensure they receive the care and support they need when they come home.”
“We have an obligation to care for the brave men and women in uniform who were exposed to harmful substances from toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Tillis said. “I am proud that this legislation is finally becoming law which will begin the process of fulfilling that obligation so that we can better understand the health effects associated with exposure to burn pits and then provide the needed resources to our veterans.”
The burning of waste on military bases exposed many service members to a variety of potentially harmful substances. Plastic, aerosol cans, electronic equipment, human waste, tires, and batteries were thrown into open pits, often doused with jet fuel, and set on fire. As a result, many deployed soldiers were exposed to smoke from these open-air burn pits. Health effects from exposure to chemicals found in burn pits may include cancer, neurological effects, reproductive effects, respiratory toxicity, and cardiovascular toxicity. Troops who have worked in these areas are subject to higher rates of asthma, emphysema, and rare lung disorders.