A “burn pit” is a term used to describe a man-made hole in the ground used to quickly and effectively dispose of waste/garbage. This pit is ignited with diesel fuel and smolders for weeks and months at a time, often around-the-clock. Environmental airborne toxins as an end product of the vast majority of waste that is burned in the pits has become an increasing concern for the servicemen and women exposed.

By May 2003, American forces had constructed and operated more than 250 burn pits for waste disposal on Joint-Base Balad, Iraq in order to keep up with accumulating trash on the base (Hickman, 2016). In 2006, an official risk assessment conducted by Lt. Col. Darrin Curtis (CENTCOM, 2006), an Air Force official, submitted a memorandum titled “Burn Pit Health Hazards” at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, and included the following statement: “the worst environmental site I have personally visited” (p. 1),  and continued to list items witnessed being burned in high quantities including plastics, Styrofoam and both medical and non-medical wastes while using jet-propellant-8 (JP-8) fuel as an accelerator  (Curtis, 2006,). The problem being that there is potentially “…an acute health hazard for individuals… also the possibility for chronic health hazards associated with the smoke…” (Curtis, p.1).

LtCol. Curtis emphasizes the importance of the need to resolve inconsistencies in previously gathered data and healthcare perspectives related to this process of waste management and had required that any airman stationed at Joint-Base Balad will have a permanent memorandum for record placed in their medical file.

And - if you haven't please SIGN UP for the Burn Pit Registry, get your name on the list!

It has been estimated that every soldier within a combat zone creates approximately 10 pounds of trash per day, estimating 140 tons of trash per day burned on average (Reiss, 2012).

Within 1-month, 36,000 service members and contractors were on Joint-Base Balad, Iraq. Meaning, approx. 360,000 pounds of trash was being accumulated and burned.

If you do the math...

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Anything and everything. Operational Security is very important in a combat zone. Items such as uniforms, cardboard and plastic wrapping from shipments, animal carcasses, medical wastes, items from the DFAC such as plastic and Styrofoam plates and trays.



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