You may have heard about the Burn Pit Registry but what exactly is it?
Burn pits were a common way to get rid of waste at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently the VA says that research doesn't show these burn pits caused any long-term health problems, but much like the veterans affected by Gulf War Syndrome, they are continuing to study it and have created a Burn Pit Registry to keep track of veterans exposed to the smoke from those burn pits.
What Was Burned In Burn Pits?
Burn pits burned many things including: chemicals, paint, medical and human waste, metal/aluminum cans, munitions and other unexploded ordnance, petroleum and lubricant products, plastics, rubber, wood, and discarded food.
Health Effects from Burn Pit Smoke
The VA says that toxins in burn pit smoke can affect you all over including the skin, eyes, respiratory and cardiovascular systems, gastrointestinal tract and internal organs.
Those who were exposed to burn pit smoke many times, were in closer proximity to burn pits, or were exposed for longer periods may be at greater risk for health problems. Burning waste in open air pits causes more pollution than burning it in an incinerator.
The VA says that since scientists haven't found any direct link between inhaling the smoke from burn pits and permanent serious medical conditions they can't provide compensation for any conditions related to burn pit exposure, but they can provide free health care to all combat veterans for conditions possibly related to service for five years after discharge.
Much like Agent Orange, many health affects to chemical exposure are not diagnosed or determined until well after the fact when scientific studies are completed.
Because of this, the VA has created an "Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry" which lets veterans document their exposures and report health concerns through an online questionnaire. That way, if problems, or a link between burn pit exposure and long term health effects are found at a later date, they can contact you and provide possible treatment and benefits.
What To Do If You Were Exposed To Burn Pit Smoke
The first thing you should do if you notice health problems is set up an appointment with your VA doctor and let them know you were exposed to burn pits in the military. They will help you and get you enrolled in the Burn Pit Registry. You can also enroll in the registry even if you don't have any health problems.
You can enroll in the Burn Pit Registry if you served in:
- Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn
- Djibouti, Africa on or after September 11, 2001
- Operations Desert Shield or Desert Storm
- Southwest Asia theater of operations on or after August 2, 1990
Check your eligibility and sign up. It takes about 40 minutes to complete the questionnaire. You can do it in one sitting or save it and come back later.
You can print and use your completed questionnaire to discuss concerns with your provider. VA providers can also access an online copy of your questionnaire.