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Military Burn Pits and Chronic Health Problems

Defense contractors hired to oversee military waste management are facing a number of burn pit lawsuits. The US military allege that open burn pits, particularly the Balad burn pit, the most notorious of the Iraq burn pits, have resulted in a number of serious side effects due to burn pit exposure.


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Open Pit Burning and US Military

The US Military returning from Iraq and Afghanistan may be suffering chronic, long-term health issues as a result of exposure to toxic fumes from open burn pits. Defense contractors have used burn pits at the majority of US military bases in the Middle East as a method of military waste disposal. All kinds of toxic waste have been incinerated in these open burn pits, including human waste, plastics, hazardous medical waste, lithium batteries, tires, hydraulic fluids and vehicles—often using jet fuel as an accelerant.

Since the beginning of the Iraqi war in 2003, countless service members have developed serious health issues. According to the "Afghanistan and Iraq Report", which was released by the US Government Accountability Office, four burn pits on US bases in Iraq are not meeting standards set in 2009 for burn pit operations.

The report, titled "DOD Should Improve Adherence to Its Guidance on Open Pit Burning and Solid Waste Management", goes on to say that some veterans returning from both conflicts have reported pulmonary and respiratory ailments, among other health concerns, that they attribute to burn pit emissions.

Burn Pit Lawsuits

Current and former members of the military have filed lawsuits in federal court in at least 43 states. The burn pit lawsuits, filed against Department of Defense contractors, claim mismanagement of the burn pit operations at several installations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, which resulted in exposure to harmful and toxic smoke and led to adverse health events.

Burn pit lawsuits have been filed against defense contractors KBR and its former parent company Halliburton, claiming the companies endangered the health of US troops and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan by unsafely burning massive amounts of garbage on US bases.

One lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for District of Maryland (David Jobes v. KBR, April 2010) alleges that prolonged exposure to the pits' smoke, ash, and fumes caused injuries such as chronic illnesses, risk of illnesses and wrongful death. The suit claims that the defendants—KBR Inc., Kellogg, Brown &d Root Services, Kellogg Brown & Root LLP and Halliburton Company-- had a duty to warn US service members and civilians working and living around burn pit fumes about health and safety issues but failed to properly do so.

The suit also claims that Halliburton and KBR received approximately five billion dollars per year in exchange for promising to provide contractually defined services. KBR apparently built the burn pit upwind from soldiers' living quarters, in violation of the LOGCAP statement of work and Army regulations, which stated that burn pits had to be built downwind of living quarters. Yet the contractors allegedly ignored this guidance.

Open Pit Burning Timeline

2001 onwards: US Military relies on defense contractors in Afghanistan to dispose of its waste by using open burn pits.

2003 onwards: US Military in Iraq are exposed to toxic fumes from burn pits.

2004: KBR uses burn pits in US bases and camps across Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of toxic wastes.

Early 2007: CHPPM and the Air Force Institute for Operational Health conduct a joint assessment of the burn pit at Balad, the largest US base in Iraq and home to about 25,000 U.S. military personnel and several thousand contractors.

December 2007: A draft executive summary (from the above) goes out to military commanders in Iraq, who post it for troops to see. It shows dioxin levels at 51 times acceptable levels, particulate exposure at 50 times acceptable levels, volatile compounds at two times acceptable levels, and cancer risk from exposure to dioxins at two times acceptable levels for people at Balad for a year and at eight times acceptable levels for people at the base for more than a year.

2008: The Military Times reports that the burn pit at Balad may have exposed tens of thousands of troops to cancer-causing dioxins, poisons such as arsenic and carbon monoxide, and hazardous medical waste

April 2009: Lawsuits are filed in state courts on behalf of current and former military personnel, private contractors and families of men who allegedly died because of exposure to the fumes at the Balad Air Force Base burn pit. Attorneys for the plaintiffs are also seeking to file a class action lawsuit.

June 2009: Jill Wilkins of Eustis, the wife of a local soldier who died from a brain tumor after being exposed to smoke from garbage-burning pits in Iraq, joins more than a dozen Florida soldiers in a class action lawsuit against KBR and its former parent company, Halliburton. Burn pit lawsuits have been filed in 16 states, with about 200 plaintiffs.

A lawsuit in Missouri against KBR and Halliburton accuses the companies of poisoning US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan by burning toxic waste.

A proposed class action led by Albert Paul Bittel claims the defendants burned trucks, tires, batteries, metals, biohazard material including animal and human corpses and other toxins. The refuse was burned in open pits using diesel fuel.

Similar allegations are made in state courts in Maryland, Alabama, Georgia, California, Texas, Illinois, Wyoming, North Carolina and Minnesota.

January to March 2010: GAO visits four burn pits in Iraq (one operated by military personnel and three operated by contractor personnel) and determines that none are managed in accordance with CENTCOM's 2009 regulation. It discovers that all four pits burn plastic--a prohibited item that can produce carcinogens when burned.

August 2010: To date, more than 500 war veterans have reported illnesses they blame on exposure to open-pit burning of toxic waste by the military and defense contractors Halliburton and its former subsidiary, KBR.

Still, 251burn pits are in use in Afghanistan and 22 in Iraq.

September 2010: In a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) calls for the declassification of an Army contract with KBR that provides the company financial immunity in cases of its own negligence, and announces legislation to increase Congressional oversight of the war contracting process.

Blumenauer releases a report detailing KBR's history of alleged misconduct in Iraq, including burning toxic chemicals in open pits on US bases.

October 2010: The US Government Accountability Office releases the "Afghanistan and Iraq Report" , claiming that four burn pits on US bases in Iraq are not meeting standards set in 2009 for burn pit operations.

Burn Pit Exposure Legal Help

If you or a loved one has suffered illness or an adverse health event resulting from these circumstances, please click the link below and your complaint will be sent to a lawyer who may evaluate your claim at no cost or obligation.
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What is Next for Burn Pit Lawsuits?
What is Next for Burn Pit Lawsuits?
October 26, 2017
Washington, DC In August, the plaintiffs filed a Notice of Appeal In re: KBR, Inc., Burn Pit Litigation seeking to overturn the decision of the Fourth Circuit that barred them from suing the military contractor who operated the burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since individuals cannot sue the military itself, the Fourth Circuit decision effectively leaves these veterans without legal recourse for the injuries they suffered from breathing toxic air and drinking poisonous water [READ MORE]

Burn Pit Lawsuit Shows How Hard it is to Sue Military Contractors
Burn Pit Lawsuit Shows How Hard it is to Sue Military Contractors
September 25, 2017
Baltimore, MD: The US District Court’s dismissal of the multidistrict litigation, In re: KBR, Inc., Burn Pit Litigation is about more than Iraq and Afghanistan burn pits. The exhaustive opinion demonstrates why it is so hard for veterans and their families to sue military contractors when they are hurt because contractors fail to exercise appropriate care in the discharge of their duties. As the nuts and bolts of modern warfare are delegated more frequently to private contractors, this issue is likely to come up again [READ MORE]

Contractor Not to Blame for Veterans’ Health Problems
Contractor Not to Blame for Veterans’ Health Problems
August 9, 2017
Baltimore, MD In a controversial ruling, a US District Court judge in Maryland has ruled US Veterans and their families cannot sue KBR contracting for exposing American soldiers to plumes of toxic smoke that emanated from burn pits used to dispose of trash near US military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq [READ MORE]


Posted by
Yvonne Woods
I served as a Government employee in Baghdad, Iraq 2009-2011 and Kabul, Afghanistan as a Contractor and inhaled toxic fumes from the burn pits. I have bad headaches, sore throat, losing weight, pain throughout my body. Now I just found out that I have lung cancer. Please contact me ASAP!


Yvonne Nelson

Posted by
Lucy P.B. Howard
Both Scott Pruitt and KBR Inc. are very closely aligned with the Heritage Foundation, and I am really worried he will be able to influence the outcome of this case in KBR Inc.'s favor. Some of my information comes from Naomi Klein's article 'Get Ready for the First Shocks of Trump's Disaster Capitalism.'

God is with our proud and courageous Veterans' as well as with the People of Standing Rock, who want their Human Right to clean drinking water upheld in a court of unbiased law. Power to the Truth!

Posted by
Nathan Smith
My son served in Iraq with the US Army 2004-2006. Most of his tour was at Camp Anaconda, Balad Air Base. Upon his return, he started developing a multitude of medical problems. After going into the emergency room and being admitted in critical condition into the Phoenix VA Hospital (hospitalized for two weeks), he was diagnosed with Sarcoidosis. As a result he has permanent lung, kidney, liver, joint damage, to mention a few. Sarcoidosis is caused by chemical inhalation. It is still not under control and he is still receiving treatment. I firmly believe that his Sarcoidosis is the result of his exposure to the "Open Burn Pits". I am my son's advocate and would like to locate a class action lawsuit for his condition. I have a lot of documentation and research that includes a very favorable medical opinion from the Chief Pulmonary Doctor at the Phoenix VA.


Posted by
Joyce Davis
Hi, I want to add my name to the Burn Pit lawsuit. I was deployed to Balad Iraq in 2001. I have respiratory problems.

Posted by
high potential I have COPD or emphysema thanks to the burn pits at balad air base. Was there 2007-2008 and breathed in that smoke every damn day.

that f*cking war is finally going to kill me.

Posted by
Mario Moya
My son called me this week and told me that he has some problems breathing, he has been have alot of green and phelm or mucus. he recently was hospitalized with what they thought was Pneumonia, but i also had a collapsed lung. He is still sick coughing up hugh pieces of phelm and they are suppose to do a diopsey on his lungs soon. I just want to know what I need to do to help him in ant way I can. He does not know that I am contacting you at this moment. Please Help my son.

Posted by
Tired, headackes, stomach, loss of memory, breathing issues along with brain lesions.

Posted by
I never had a problem with my blood sugar before I severed at the AF theater hospital in Balad. I was told when left Ballad in 2005 that could not put my exposure from the burn pit smoke in my post deployment medical record.

Posted by
Was diagnosed upon returning home from Iraq in July of 2008 with Sarcoidosis. All different forms. Ive also been diagnosed with COPD and Martin Grubers Syndrome.

Posted by
I get pneumonia every year at about the same time and i have a chronic year round cough. I didn't know why until I read an article about burn pits in Iraq. I was deployed to OIF I in 2003. Lived on multiple bases in Kuwait and Iraq, including Balad air base aka LSA Anaconda for most of the deployment. We lived for a few months within 50 feet of a burn pit until it was mandated we take our trash to a centralized burn pit for the entire base. I have gone in to debt each of the past two years because I have had to miss extended periods of employment because of my yearly illness.

Posted by
Shortness of breath, chronic pain throughout the body to include muscles, bones, joints, and tendons. Memory loss, lack of concentration, dizziness, and rushing sound in ears.

Posted by
I have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

Posted by
Migraines, sore throat, my right eye has some kind of weird burning sensation in it or it swells up causing the veins in that eye to swell and standout.


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