Defense Base Act Compensation Blog

The Modern Day DBA Casualty

American military creating an environmental disaster in Afghan countryside

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on April 26, 2010

America plans to withdraw its troops but leave behind a toxic mess

The Kabul Press Part One of Three

The American military presence in Afghanistan consists of fleets of aircraft, helicopters, armored vehicles, weapons, equipment, troops and facilities. Since 2001, they have generated millions of kilograms of hazardous, toxic and radioactive wastes. The Kabul Press asks the simple question:

“What have the Americans done with all that waste?”

The answer is chilling in that virtually all of it appears to have been buried, burned or secretly disposed of into the air, soil, groundwater and surface waters of Afghanistan. While the Americans may begin to withdraw next year, the toxic chemicals they leave behind will continue to pollute for centuries. Any abandoned radioactive waste may stain the Afghan countryside for thousands of years. Afghanistan has been described in the past as the graveyard of foreign armies. Today, Afghanistan has a different title:

“Afghanistan is the toxic dumping ground for foreign armies.”

The (U.S.) Air Force Times ran an editorial on March 1, 2010, that read: “Stamp Out Burn Pits” We reprint here the first half of that editorial:

“A growing number of military medical professionals believe burn pits are causing a wave of respiratory and other illnesses among troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Found on almost all U.S. bases in the war zones, these open-air trash sites operate 24 hours a day, incinerating trash of all forms — including plastic bottles, paint, petroleum products, unexploded ordinance, hazardous materials, even amputated limbs and medical waste. Their smoke plumes belch dioxin, carbon monoxide and other toxins skyward, producing a toxic fog that hangs over living and working areas. Yet while the Air Force fact sheet flatly states that burn pits “can be harmful to human health and environment and should only be used until more suitable disposal capabilities are established,” the Pentagon line is that burn pits have “no known long-term health effects.”

Please read the full story here

One Response to “American military creating an environmental disaster in Afghan countryside”

  1. I wish to share our concerns regarding the safety of our troops and believe that it is our government’s responsibility to treat servicememebers whose ailments are directly linked to exposure to dangerous toxins. As early as 2002, U.S. military installations in Afghanistan and Iraq began to rely on open-air burn pits to dispose of waste materials despite concerns about air pollution.

    Emissions from burning waste contain fine particulate matter, sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and various irritant gases such as nitrogen oxides that can scar the lungs. Emissions also contain super-toxic chemicals such as Dioxin that are known or suspected to be carcinogens.
    An Open Air Burn Pit an area devoted to open-air combustion of trash. Modern waste contains significant amounts of plastic and other material which may emit toxic aerial compounds and particulates when burned.

    In Iraq and Afghanistan the U.S. military or its contractors such as KBR operated large burn pits for long periods of time burning many tons of assorted waste. Active duty personnel reported respiratory difficulties and headaches in some cases and some veterans have made disability claims based on respiratory system symptoms to more life threating diseases.

    According to a brief, instead of removing the refuse safely, KBR chose to burn the unsorted waste in gigantic, open burn pits that produced flames hundreds of feet into the sky, injuring many, by exposing them to highly toxic smoke, ash and fumes emanating from the pits.
    Can you imagine inhaling these toxic fumes 24/7 for up to 18 month deployments?

    Currently a Burn Pit Registry Act of 2011 has been introduced Senate bill # S. 1798, and the House bill H.R. 3337 to create a registry, similar to the Agent Orange Registry and the Gulf War Registry, that will help collect the facts needed to find the connections between burn pit exposure and health problems affecting our servicemen and women. The legislation will also serve as a vehicle for improved communication and information dissemination for affected veterans.

    Although these bills mentioned are a good thing, it will take many years as have Agent Orange Registry and the Gulf War Registry to get the help our troops need. Many troops exposed to Agent Orange and Gulf War have died waiting for help that never came.

    Follow Burn Pit Voices on​burnpit.voices.

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