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Toxic burn pits put the health of US veterans at risk. Can a new law help?

Published by Edward Helmore

(Us Air Force/Reuters)

Joe Biden visited Texas last week. But it was no ordinary campaigning trip to a state Democrats hungrily eye as a target to flip from red to blue.

Instead the US president was speaking about an issue with personal resonance: burn pits. That is the catch-all term used to describe how American soldiers in foreign wars were exposed to toxic chemicals from incinerated military waste that years later causes debilitating disease and death to thousands of veterans.

One of those victims, Biden believes, could be his son Beau. In his recent State of the Union address, Biden talked about burn pits – excavations filled with any and all waste from a deployment and set aflame with jet fuel or diesel – saying exposure could have led to the death of Beau, who served a year-long tour of duty in Iraq and later died of brain cancer.

“When they came home, many of the world’s fittest and best-trained warriors in the world were never the same. Headaches. Numbness. Dizziness. A cancer that would put them in a flag-draped coffin. I know,” Biden said.

In Texas, Biden met with veterans, including one who was stationed near a pit and later had six weeks of treatment and chemotherapy, and said that access to healthcare and benefits for affected veterans should be expanded. “They shouldn’t have to ask for a damn thing,” Biden said. “It should be, ‘I’ve got a problem’ and we should say, How can I help?’”

The Department of Defense estimates that roughly 3.5 million service members could have been exposed to burn pits during America’s wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan. A legislative battle is now under way to require the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand its recognition of the health consequences of burn pit exposure....

Read full article on The Guardian.


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