Saturday, May 09, 2015

Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty Hears from Veterans in Waterbury about the Dangers of Burn Pits Exposure, Introduces Legislation to Improve Treatment

US House Rep Elizabeth Esty's office issued the following yesterday:

May 8, 2015
Press Release

WATERBURY, CT – Today, Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (CT-5) met with veterans at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury to discuss the consequences of exposure to burn pits while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Burn pits are areas on military bases where waste, such as human waste, batteries, and other garbage, is incinerated and toxic fumes are released into the atmosphere. Esty was inspired to introduce legislation, the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act, H.R. 2237, after veterans in her district contacted her office to inform her of the negative health consequences they suffered.

“While much attention is rightly paid to the visible wounds of war, our veterans also suffer from numerous less visible conditions that result from exposure to the environmental hazards found in war zones,” said Congresswoman Esty. “I’ve heard from veterans in central and northwest Connecticut who suffer from or who know fellow service members who suffer from respiratory and gastrointestinal issues that were likely caused by exposure to burn pits. This is exactly why I introduced the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act to expand care to those exposed to burn pits. Our veterans deserve real attention and quality care for the full range of health conditions from their service to our country.”

“Burn pits are the Agent Orange of our generation,” said James Rizzio, president of NVCC’s Veterans’ Club. “I was around burn pits a lot and it can lead to very serious medical issues later in life. Getting this legislation passed is the right thing to do.”

Rizzio spent six years in the U.S. Army and served in Iraq from 2009 to 2010.

Military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are exposed to a variety of potentially harmful substances including the smoke produced from the burning of waste on military bases. Items such as plastics, aerosol cans, electronic equipment, human waste, metal containers, tires, and batteries are thrown into open pits, sometimes doused with jet fuel, and set ablaze. Smoke from these open-air burn pits can waft throughout the entire base and even into living areas. Health effects from exposure to chemicals found in burn pits can include cancer, neurological and reproductive effects, respiratory toxicity, and cardiovascular toxicity.

The Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act would create a center of excellence within the Department of Veterans Affairs in the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions related to exposure to burn pits.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs maintains an Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry for veterans who are suffering from conditions related to exposure to burn pits.
Full text of Esty’s bill, the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act can be found here.