U.S. Representatives Brian Mast (FL-18) and Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today introduced bipartisan legislation to evaluate the exposure of U.S. servicemembers and veterans to open burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals. Over 140,000 servicemembers and veterans have reported exposure to burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals over the past three decades. Exposure can produce serious and potentially life-threatening health effects, including neurological disorders, rare forms of cancer, lung diseases, and more—triggering some to call the crisis the ‘Agent Orange’ of the post-9/11 generation.
“When I was serving in Afghanistan, trash and human waste were often burned in open air pits,” Rep. Mast said. “I think it’s quickly becoming clear that these burn pits are emerging as the Agent Orange of my generation. Service members that were exposed in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeing terrible health effects at a very young age. These men and women risked their lives for our country, and this bipartisan legislation will go a long way toward getting them the care they have earned.”
“Whether serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, our post-9/11 veterans were exposed to open-air burn pits, often for many hours a day,” Rep. Gabbard said. “Some veterans who I deployed with are now falling sick with cancer and other illnesses. But, there is no research and data about exposure to burn pits and other toxic chemicals, and how they have impacted the health and well-being of our servicemembers and their families. Our bipartisan legislation will evaluate exposure to burn pits and other hazardous airborne chemicals to ensure our servicemembers and veterans receive the treatment and services they earned and deserve.”
The Burn Pits Accountability Act would study servicemembers’ exposure to open burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals while on active duty to begin the process of understanding, assessing, and treating these service-related ailments. The bill is supported by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).
“Burn pits are one of the most critical issues facing our generation of veterans. IAVA members nationwide are deeply concerned and incredibly focused on this issue. Burn pits could impact millions and be our generation’s Agent Orange. Increasing accountability at the DoD for servicemembers’ toxic exposures is long overdue. The introduction of this historic legislation is welcomed news for our community of over 3 million veterans that have fought in our nation’s wars since 9/11,” IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff said. “We applaud the strong leadership of our fellow Post-9/11 veterans in Congress. They have stepped forward in a united, bi-partisan effort to put veterans first. Representative Gabbard and Representative Mast have both lived our wars themselves–and are the perfect leaders to drive forward this change. Just as they did on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, Reps. Gabbard and Mast are now leading for their fellow troops in Congress. Their unity, bi-partisanship and patriotism are an inspiration and an example for all members of Congress–and all Americans. IAVA members nationwide are standing by and look forward to working tirelessly alongside them to get this done.”
The Burn Pits Accountability Act would evaluate the exposure of U.S. servicemembers and veterans to open burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals by:
- Requiring the Secretary of Defense to record whether servicemembers have been based or stationed at a location where an open burn pit was used or exposed to toxic airborne chemicals, including any information recorded as part of the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, in the Periodic Health Assessment (PHAs), Separation History and Physical Examination (SHPEs), and Post-Deployment Health Assessment (PDHAs).
- Enrolling any servicemember who meets the above criteria in the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, unless he or she opts-out.
- Requiring the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to share information relating to exposure of burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals recorded in PHAs, SHPEs, and PDHAs.