News Release

Toxic Military “Burn Pits” Across the U.S. and in Iraq: Why Are They Allowed?


At the State of the Union Address Tuesday night, President Joe Biden addressed toxic “burn pits” and the possibility that his son, Beau Biden’s fatal brain cancer could have been caused by one in Iraq. These are used to dispose of toxic material by burning it.

Olah is executive director of Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger and national coordinator for the Cease Fire Campaign. She has written extensively about burn pits, especially at military bases inside the U.S. In “Hundreds Call on EPA to Stop Open Air Burning of PFAS and other Toxic Chemicals,” she wrote: “Nationwide, there are approximately 60 active private and public sector facilities that routinely conduct OB/OD [open burn/open demolition] of hazardous waste. All are currently permitted by the EPA or allowed by the agency to operate under ‘interim status’ without any permit at all.

“The munitions industry is the only industry in the United States that is still being permitted to burn hazardous waste to the open air — a practice that was formally banned by Congress in the 1980’s. The EPA has permitted the practice to continue for decades, despite the long-standing federal mandate.

“Moreover, there are literally hundreds of former OB/OD sites across the U.S. that now require cleanup. In addition to widespread environmental damage, community members, base workers and service members have endured chronic exposure to toxic metals, dioxins, perchlorates, explosives, solvents, depleted uranium and PFAS.” See list of active OB/OD hazardous sites in the U.S. and territories [PDF] and list of Pentagon fire/crash training area sites [PDF].

KALI RUBAII, [currently in Fallujah, Iraq],, @kalirubaii
Rubaii is an assistant professor at Purdue University and wrote the piece “Birth Defects and the Toxic Legacy of War in Iraq” for the Middle East Research and Information Project which states: “U.S. bases in Iraq used burn pits to incinerate everything from computers to tires in large open-air pits that burned day and night for years. They released high levels of dioxin and innumerable other toxins that are known to cause health problems, from birth defects to neurological issues.

“Burn pits are also linked to U.S. veteran illnesses and sit at the root of campaigns for veteran healthcare. For Iraqis living near burn pits, serious consequences for their long-term and intergenerational health continue to emerge. For example, some Iraqi babies born near Tallil Air Base were found to have neurological problems, congenital heart disease, paralyzed or missing limbs and elevated thorium in their bodies. The closer to the base, the higher their levels.”

The group Military Poisons features more information.