News Release

Burn Pits: Federal Government Finally Helping Vets Suffering from Military Pollution

After years of activism by veterans and others, the Biden administration recently announced it would increase support for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits while they were deployed overseas.

H. PATRICIA (PAT) HYNES, hphynes@gmail.com
    Hynes is a retired environmental engineer and professor of environmental health. Her awards include the U.S. EPA Lifetime Achievement Award. Her books include The Recurring Silent Spring.

    In the piece “The Burn Pits,” she writes: “They are called ‘this generation’s Agent Orange’ — the open fire pits operated on over 230 U.S. military bases across Iraq and Afghanistan during our wars there. Every kind of waste — plastics; batteries; old ordnance; asbestos; pesticide containers; tires; biomedical, chemical and nuclear waste; dead animals; human feces; body parts; and corpses — was incinerated in them.

    “The word ‘incinerate,’ suggesting an enclosed burning facility with pollution controls, is misleading. These barbaric burn pits were dug on military bases in the midst of housing, work and dining facilities, with zero pollution controls. Tons of waste — an average of 10 pounds daily per soldier — burned in them every day, all day and all night. Ash laden with hundreds of toxins and carcinogens blackened the air and coated clothing, beds, desks and dining halls, according to a Government Accounting Office investigation. The burn pits recklessly violated the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Defensewaste disposal regulations. And predictably, base commanders temporarily shut them down when politician and high-ranking generals came to visit.”