Open-air burning has long been a mainstay of waste disposal during times of war, but new factors, such as electronics and plastic bottles, challenge the safety of these fires.
In a report released in September, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) credited the Department of Defense (DOD) with improving practices to mitigate the risks of exposure to burn pits, but stated that the DOD still needs to ensure that “research specifically examines the relationship between direct burn pit exposure and long-term health issues.”
In the report, the GAO also states that there has not been enough progress over the issue of burn-pit exposure since it was discovered more study was needed five years ago.
The report warns that “The current lack of data on emissions specific to burn pits and related individual exposures limits efforts to characterize potential long-term health impacts of service members and other base personal.”
Right now, the VA’s official position is the research thus far has not established evidence of long-term health problems from exposure to these pits. Since the Department of Defense has not undertaken the necessary research and the Government Accountability Office acknowledges the problem, the VA should give the benefit of the doubt to the veteran. Unfortunately, the extent of the damages to our Veterans may not be confirmed for decades when delayed war casualties slowly emerge.