December 18th, 2009
08:51 AM ET

Military: Burn pits could cause long-term damage to troops

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Smoke billows from a burn pit on a base in Al Taqaddum, Iraq, in 2007."]

Washington (CNN) - The military is backing off its previous position and acknowledging that some troops exposed to the burning of refuse on military bases could be susceptible to long-term health effects.

Since the issue first arose two years ago, Pentagon health officials have insisted that, based on its analysis, troops who were near burn pits at Joint Base Balad in Iraq - the largest base in that country - faced no long-term health hazards. That covered most of the troops who passed through the base.

The Department of Defense found that the burn pits, which are used instead of incinerators on some bases and outposts in Iraq and Afghanistan, could cause effects in the short term - including irritated eyes and upper respiratory system problems - that can lead to persistent coughing. But the department said "it is less clear what other longer-term health effects [there] may be."

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soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Bob Witt

    Spent a year a Balad OIF 06-08 and have been coughing ever since my return...No, I don't smoke.......

    December 23, 2009 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Frank

    I served during desert storm. We also had a burn pit and it had a lot of use. especially when it was time to packup and leave. There was everything tossed in it from automotive grease to treated lumber.
    The burning oil wells, sand storms and burning human waste drums just added to the great vat of healthy air.

    December 23, 2009 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Joe

    Deploy all of the politicians who supported the (wrong) war in Iraq to breath in the smoke for a year or so. Maybe a long term effect will be a smarter Congress. OK, it's Christmas and I was just wishing for something good.

    December 23, 2009 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  4. environmental geneus

    Are we concerned about global warming or what. It seems that some parts of the USA and other small areas of other countries are concerned. The rest of the world is free to pollute our air. So who is to blame when the human race becomes extinct!
    Wake up the atmosphere is for everyone not just a restricted elite.

    December 23, 2009 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
  5. Concerned Military

    I was in Iraq at COB Adder and I can tell you that the smoke from the burn pit there is noxious and most definitely going to cause long term health problems. When the wind was coming from the right direction the smoke would hang like a fog over part of the base and the people working there had to breathe all day long. They burn any and everything you can think of in there without regard for anyone's health. They do the environmental air quality tests on days when the wind blows the smoke away from the base. That shouldn't surprise anybody though.

    December 23, 2009 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |

    Modern plastics are made from chemicals that were considered chemical warfare agents in WWI; cyanides of various types and phosgene. Plus there are a bunch of even more toxic chemicals that are used as well. Look up Bohpol India for an example of what happens when some of that stuff leaked.

    Ok, so now burn the plastic and you get some of those chemcials back. Yes, some are burned off, but you need to have some very specific and expensive equipment to properly eliminate all the chemicals. End result for guys overseas is breathing in a toxic stew. Let the EPA loose and see what they come up with – just use normal industrial standards and see how far outside of acceptable the condiitions really are.

    The real sad part is for those out actually doing the real work in the cities and towns recieve double exposure as the locals all burn their own trash, or take it to big pits where it is burned.

    December 22, 2009 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. joe smith

    We at Balad complained the entire year that we were there. Always got the same response; "Don't worry about it." Sure...

    December 22, 2009 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Simpleton

    Is there any smoke thats good for us?

    December 22, 2009 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |