Defense

July 12, 2013

Military burn pits may endanger health

Kevin Freking
Associated Press

A military camp in Afghanistan continues to use open-air burn pits to dispose of its solid wastes, potentially endangering the health of the nearly 13,500 people working there and violating the Pentagon’s own regulations and guidance, federal investigators say.

The Defense Department has said burn pits should only be used as a temporary last resort when no other alternative trash disposal method is feasible. Even then, at bases containing more than 100 personnel, burn pits are supposed to operate a maximum of 360 days. However, the burn pit at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan’s Helmand province continues to operate some five years after the camp was started, says John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction.

The base could avoid using the burn pits altogether if the Pentagon were to make full use of four incinerators that cost $11.5 million to purchase and install, Sopko said.

ìThe toxic smoke from burning solid waste each day increases the long-term health risks for camp personnel, including reduced lung function and exacerbated chronic illness, ranging from asthma to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,î Sopko wrote to Gen. Lloyd J Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command, and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The IG’s report is the second in the past four months citing the use of burn pits at a U.S. base in violation of Pentagon regulations. The previous report focused on a base near the Afghanistan border with Pakistan.

The Pentagon forwarded an Associated Press request for comment to public relations staff in Afghanistan, who had no immediate response.

An Institute of Medicine study requested by the Veterans Affairs Department concluded in 2011 that there was insufficient data to determine whether burn pit emissions had long-term health consequences. However, some U.S. personnel stationed near burn pits have complained that burn-pit exposure has led to a litany of medical problems. Sopko cited an April 15, 2011, Army memo stating that long-term exposure may increase the risk for developing chronic health conditions such as reduced lung function or chronic bronchitis.

Lawmakers have recently required the VA to establish a database that would monitor personnel stationed near burn pits to track any health issues and alert participants if major problems are detected.
A Government Accountability Office report has said waste disposed in burn pits may consist of plastics, food, discarded electronics, pallets, mattresses, clothing, tires and metal containers. Officials have calculated that there are about eight pounds of waste each day for each person at a military base.

The inspector general’s report for Camp Leatherneck indicated that investigators visited the camp three times in April and May. Two 12-ton incinerators were used sparingly, while two larger ones were never used. While contractors said during the last inspection that the larger incinerators would be operational in three weeks, they were still not operational as of July 2, according to the report.

Burn pits were relied upon heavily during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly in the earliest years of the wars. The military has cited expediency as the major factor as incinerators or landfills may not have been readily available, especially when a base has just opened.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Air Force photograph by TSgt. Matt Hecht

Laser-based aircraft countermeasure provides ‘unlimited rounds’ against MANPADS

Air Force photograph by TSgt. Matt Hecht A U.S. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopter prepares to depart Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, on Jan 7, 2012. The Apache conducts distributed operations, precision strikes against relocat...
 
 

Navy, Air Force advocate for modernizing combat aviation

Top Navy and Air Force officials today told the House Armed Services subcommittee on tactical air and land forces the president’s budget request for fiscal year 2016 will support modernizing combat aviation programs. Cavy Vice Adm. Paul A. Grosklags, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisitions; Air...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Victor J. Caputo

McConnell community marks B-29 rollout

Air Force photograph by SrA. Victor J. Caputo A B-29 Superfortress aircraft, named Doc after its nose art, sit on the flightline March 23, 2015, in Wichita, Kan. Doc will be one of two Superfortresses in the world capable of fl...
 

 

Future USS John Finn launched

The future USS John Finn (DDG 113) was launched at the Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Miss., shipyard March 28. During launch the drydock was flooded allowing the 637-foot floating dock to slowly submerge until the ship was afloat. Once the drydock was fully submerged, the ship was pulled by tugs to HII’s south berth...
 
 
Courtesy photograph

First production QF-16 arrives at Tyndall

Courtesy photograph Maintainers begin post-flight checks on the first Lot 1 production model QF-16 after it arrived at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., March 11. The aircraft is the first of 13 deliveries to the 82nd Aerial Target...
 
 
Air Force photograph by A1C Dustin Mullen

E-9A Widget, one of a kind

Air Force photograph by A1C Dustin Mullen An E-9A Widget sits on the flight line in front of hangar 5 Mar. 3 at the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron. The Widget is a modified version of the Bombardier Dash-8, formerly Canadian De Ha...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>