Burn Pits in Iraq: What to Do If You Have Been Exposed

Combat violence is not the only threat to your health if you work on a U.S. military base. Routine maintenance on a military base can also cause you significant harm.

Among the harmful maintenance measures recently used by the U.S. military in Iraq are burn pits. If you experienced burn pit exposure in Iraq and you suffer from a related illness or disability, you have options for recovery.

What Is a Burn Pit?

The U.S. military uses open-air burn pits in its overseas bases to dispose of personnel waste. The contents of these pits are varied and noxious, including:

  • Chemicals,
  • Paint,
  • Medical waste,
  • Human waste,
  • Metal/aluminum cans,
  • Munitions,
  • Unexploded ordnance,
  • Petroleum,
  • Lubricant products,
  • Plastics, 
  • Styrofoam,
  • Rubber,
  • Wood, and
  • Discarded food. 

The military burns the waste in open pits using jet fuel (JP-8). These open pits produce noxious gases and particulate matter that can have serious effects on your health. Professional incinerators are safer options for waste management, but sometimes military operations decline to use them. A military installment might use a burn pit overseas to cut costs and support strategic choices during military operations. 

How Can a Burn Pit Harm Me?

The Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction reports that burn pits emit pollution containing lead, mercury, dioxins, and irritant gases.

There are many health concerns associated with these contaminants, and those living and working near burn pits could experience a long and nonexhaustive list of health complications.

Short-term effects of burn pit exposure include nausea, headaches, eye irritation, respiratory tract irritation, nose irritation and/or throat irritation. Long-term effects of burn pit exposure can cause health problems involving multiple body parts, including:

  • Skin,
  • Respiratory system,
  • Eyes,
  • Liver,
  • Kidneys,
  • Central nervous system,
  • Cardiovascular system,
  • Reproductive system,
  • Peripheral nervous system, and
  • Gastrointestinal tract.

The U.S. government is still investigating the effects of burn pit exposure through its Open Burn Pit Registry, but there is abundant information about the effects contaminants from burn pits can have on your body.

Reports regarding the effects of mercury, lead, and dioxin exposure reveal that working near burn pits can cause significant harm. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that mercury is a neurotoxin and airborne exposure to mercury can cause tremors, emotional changes, headaches, neuromuscular changes, muscle atrophy, kidney effects, respiratory failure, and death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that you absorb higher levels of lead when you breathe it in. Those who absorb lead can experience continual internal exposure. With prolonged lead exposure comes a risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, and reduced fertility. Exposure to dioxins can cause cancer, developmental problems, reproductive problems, immune system damage, and hormone interference. 

If you were exposed to a burn pit near a U.S. military base in Iraq and have health complications you suspect are related to your exposure, you should explore your options for recovery immediately. An attorney can help you with this. 

How Can Civilian Employees and Contractors Receive Benefits for Burn Pit Exposure Injuries?

If you are civilian personnel or a civilian public works/defense contractor working on a U.S. military base in Iraq and you suffer burn pit injuries, you can receive disability benefits under the Defense Base Act, including partial replacement of wage loss, permanent disability compensation, and medical benefits.

You must report your injury within 30 days to access these benefits. You have one year to file a claim for compensation for an acute injury, and you have two years to file a claim for compensation for an occupational disease. If you suffer injury from a burn pit exposure in Iraq, a Defense Base Act attorney can meet these deadlines to win you benefits. 

Get Attorney Help Now

You have given your time and jeopardized your health to be a first line of defense for the United States. You should have your own line of defense when recouping the disability benefits you deserve. 

Grossman Attorneys at Law are Defense Base Act attorneys in Florida who provide the expertise and personal attention you deserve when seeking compensation for your injuries. We prepare more than anyone to win you benefits, and we make ourselves available to you, even after hours.

Contact us today or call us at 1-866-280-1847 to receive the best help for your claim. 

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