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Hazards of Military Burn Pit Exposure

By Nachman Brautbar, M.D.

Military burn pit is an area of a military base used to dispose of waste by burning, often with an accelerant like jet fuel. Waste products commonly disposed of in open burn pits include:

  • Chemicals
  • Paint
  • Medical waste
  • Human waste
  • Metal and aluminum cans
  • Munitions and unexploded ordnance
  • Petroleum and lubricant products
  • Plastics
  • Rubber
  • Wood
  • Food waste

Exposure to the smoke and fumes generated by open burn pits can cause acute health effects (eye irritation, cough, throat irritation, skin rashes, difficulty breathing, dizziness and headaches) and long-term health effects (skin, eyes, kidney, liver, central and peripheral nervous systems, cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal tract, lungs, reproductive system, cancers).

On April 25, 2022, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affair announced that nine rare respiratory cancers are now presumed service-connected disabilities due to military environmental exposures to fine particulate matter. These cancers include:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx
  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the trachea
  • Adenocarcinoma of the trachea
  • Salivary gland-type tumors of the trachea
  • Adenosquamous carcinoma of the lung
  • Large cell carcinoma of the lung
  • Salivary gland-type tumors of the lung
  • Sarcomatoid carcinoma of the lung
  • Typical and atypical carcinoid of the lung

In 2022, U.S. Congress passed legislation that would lower the burden of proof for military service members who developed certain harmful conditions and were exposed to toxic burn pits during their military service.

If you are or your client is a military service member, veteran or military contractor who has a Defense Base Act claim and was exposed to toxic smoke and fumes from military burn pits and require a medical nexus letter to establish medical causation for your health condition, please contact our office for further assistance.