The Human Cost of the Military’s Toxic Burn Pits

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from medium.com

Today’s post is shared from medium.com and is authored by Matthew Gault.

Jason Dawson joined the Marines in 2003 and went to Iraq in 2006. He deployed to Al Asad air base in Anbar province where he was part of a crash, fire and rescue team.

When his tour finished, he stayed and became a civilian contractor—a firefighter.

He liked the pay and the work, but he didn’t like the burn pits. Al Asad maintained a large, open-air ditch filled with burning garbage. It’s how the base disposed of all its waste.

“Some mornings I remember waking up … and I could smell the burn pits,” he says.

Dawson stayed in Al Asad for three years, and the whole time he dealt with toxic fumes. Since coming home, he’s developed several mysterious health problems doctors can’t seem to diagnose.

Dawson—who is a personal friend—is not alone. Thousands of returning soldiers and civilians reported various health problems after coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Many suspect prolonged exposure to the burn pits are the cause.

What didn’t help is that the military’s efforts to clean up the burn pits were half-hearted at best, and negligent at worst. That’s the conclusion of a new report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

In the report, the congressionally-mandated watchdog details taxpayer cash wasted trying to close the Pentagon’s burn pits.

But worse than the monetary waste is how…

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