Exposure to burn pits—open pits where trash is burned and releases toxic chemicals—can result in health issues such as cancer, neurological effects, reproductive effects, respiratory toxicity, and cardiovascular toxicity
WASHINGTON- Today, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) reintroduced the bipartisan Burn Pits Accountability Act to examine the health effects of exposure to open burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals on servicemembers and veterans. The legislation would require members of the Armed Forces to be evaluated for exposure to toxic airborne chemicals during routine health exams and direct the Secretary of Defense to record and share whether servicemembers were based or stationed near an open burn pit, including any information recorded as part of the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, the Periodic Health Assessment (PHAs), Separation History and Physical Examination (SHPEs), and Post-Deployment Health Assessment (PDHAs). Members exposed to toxic airborne chemicals or stationed near an open burn pit would also be enrolled in the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, unless they chose to opt out.
“We must do right by the brave men and women who serve our country and do everything we can to protect their health,” Klobuchar said. “The bipartisan Burn Pits Accountability Act will allow us to gather the information we need to monitor, evaluate, and eventually treat the devastating health effects of burn pits on our servicemembers. By learning from our past mistakes, we can prevent toxic burn pits from becoming this generation’s Agent Orange.”
“As a member of both the Senate Veterans’ Affairs and Armed Services Committees, it’s my priority to support our service members from the day they enter military service through the transition into civilian life and beyond,” Sullivan said. “I am pleased to once again work with Senator Klobuchar on this bipartisan legislation that would help keep our service members healthy and safe by ensuring exposure to toxic airborne chemicals from burn pits is identified and studied.”
The burning of waste on military bases exposed many servicemembers 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.
In September, another piece of legislation sponsored by Klobuchar to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits was signed into law. The provisions, based on the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act led by Klobuchar and Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and cosponsored by Sullivan, was included in the Senate and House-passed Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act and will 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.