A judge under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office for Workers’ Compensation Programs decreed last month that open-air burn pits — where thousands of chemicals were released into the air after trash and other waste was incinerated at American military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan — are connected to lung disease.
Fox News reports that thousands of U.S. military personnel and private contractors whose health was compromised by the dense black smoke of burn pits were then denied proper treatment.
The decision marks a victory for the nearly 64,000 active service members and retirees who have put their names on a Burn Pit Registry created by the Veterans Administration, bringing them one step closer to getting adequate medical coverage, something that has never been guaranteed.
The report states soldiers have fallen gravely ill or even died from exposure to burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq, but they are not the only ones who have gotten sick. Civilian workers and private contractors are also suffering an array of maladies including cancer, respiratory problems, and blood disorders, and, like military victims, they say they are being ignored.
Former contractor, Veronica Landry of Colorado Springs, whose case was a part of the recent ruling, told the court she was exposed to smoke from the burn pits “every day” while working at Mosul Air Force Base in Iraq for Kellogg, Brown, and Root [KBG], and that “every plastic water bottle that every soldier drank out of was also burned in the burn pits.” Landry said she experienced other ailments such as migraines, chills and dangerously low blood pressure. She has been in out of hospitals for nearly ten years.
Research conducted in 2014 by Dr. Anthony Szema, at Stony Brook University School of Medicine on Long Island, New York, found very high levels of titanium in the lungs of all of the veterans from Camp Victory in Iraq. Dr. Szema strongly believes the titanium dust particles found in the soldiers came directly from the burn pits.
The most common doctor-diagnosed health problems reported were insomnia and neurological problems. Other commonly diagnosed health problems reported include allergies, high blood pressure, and lung diseases like emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and asthma.