This is Part 4 of a multi-part 12 on 12 Digital Original: A Burning Controversy
(WPRI) — Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline said combat isn’t the only thing putting military lives at risk overseas. He argues burn pits, a way to get rid of waste at some military sites, is posing a significant health hazard.
“Service members in the past would preside over these burn pits to stir them,” Rep. Cicilline (D-RI) said.
Cicilline said despite Congress prohibiting the use of burn pits in 2010, the Department of Defense recently acknowledged there are still nine active burn pits in Afghanistan, Egypt and Syria.
Cicilline said the House-passed “National Defense Authorization Act of 2019” included amendments for the DOD to develop a plan for the closure of the final burn pits, as well as the Burn Pit Accountability Act and the Burn Pit Enhancement Act.
“To really understand the serious health consequences from these very dangerous practices,” Cicilline added.
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown (D) compared the risk of exposure from burn pits to Agent Orange in Vietnam.
“We finished, finally, making sure everybody who should be eligible for Agent Orange is getting it,” Sen. Brown said. “We passed the Blue Water Navy bill. We need to look at burn pits the same.”
Carlos Fuentes, with Veterans of Foreign Wars, said he’s encouraged the DOD has acknowledged the health impacts associated with burn pits but says they need to do more.
“The DOD should have gotten ahead of this a lot faster,” he explained. “Find alternatives to burning trash or disposing of trash that doesn’t expose new service members to those toxins.”
If you are a service member and have health concerns related to burn pits register in the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs Burn Pit Registry
If you’d like to share a story related to this issue, contact WPRI 12 Eyewitness News reporter Caroline Goggin at firstname.lastname@example.org.