Military Connection: Veterans at Risk: By Debbie Gregory

By Debbie GregoryU.S. Army soldiers watch garbage burn in a burn-pit at Forward Operating Base Azzizulah in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province

Attention service members and Veterans who:

  • Served in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, Desert Shield or Desert Storm
  • Were stationed in Djibouti after September 11, 2001
  • Served in Southwest Asia theater of operations on or after August 2, 1990

You may have been exposed to fumes and particles that could lead to serious health concerns. Toxins from crushed and burned metals, fumes from garbage burned in open pits or bacteria that may have been inhaled with dust during tours of service,  putting you at serious risk.

For example, at Joint Base Balad in Iraq, an estimated  240 tons of garbage,  including metals, Styrofoam, rubber and medical waste were burned in an open burn pit daily, located only a mile away from where American service members were living.

Exposure to airborne particles can lead to foreign pollutants entering into the nose and throat, and potentially being inhaled deep into the lungs. Toxins in the lungs,   including soil, dust, metals, chemicals and acids have led to respiratory problems and other major health concerns, and can potentially be fatal.

In February, 2014, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) opened a Burn Pit Registry to anyone who believes that they may have been exposed to burn pit toxins  during tours at the aforementioned locations. After signing up for the registry, Veterans may request a free medical exam.

The registry is part of the VA’s action plan to develop a standard screening and evaluation of service members and Veterans with respiratory complaints after deployment, in order to improve care for Veterans.

The staff at Military Connection urges every service member and Veteran who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti and Southwest Asia during the eligible time periods to make sure that they were not exposed to airborne particles that could endanger their health.

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Military Connection: Veterans at Risk: By Debbie Gregory