May 01, 2019

The Risks of Burn Pit Exposure Abroad: A Loss in Court, Progress in Congress

Sean Znachko, Los Angeles, CA

Across Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas of Southwest Asia, United States military bases use open-air pits to burn and dispose of waste.1 These “burn pits” are used to dispose of a variety of materials, including chemicals, medical and human waste, munitions and other unexploded ordnance, and discarded food. Many U.S. military bases are set up in areas without infrastructure and, as a result, lack a proper trash disposal system.2 For example, a report issued by the United States Army Public Health Command concerning a burn pit at Joint Base Balad, a major logistics air base in north central Iraq, indicates that the Balad burn pit was used to prevent the possibility of exposing service members to combat should they have to exit the secured perimeter of the base to dispose of waste.3 The report also indicates that the Balad burn pit was used to improve the overall sanitary conditions on the base. 

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