Photo by Piero via Wikimedia Commons

Burn pits are a well-known phenomenon throughout the military and veteran communities, but America at large is still in the dark when it comes to this practice.

Until the mid-2010s, the US government ordered soldiers to burn refuse at military bases overseas in countries like Iraq. This practice involved digging a pit, filling it with refuse, and lighting it all a blaze. Unfortunately, this practice would result in multiple soldiers inhaling toxic fumes and dangerous chemicals.

Many service members coming home during this period reported having had unusual respiratory illnesses, and some later developed rare forms of cancer. In addition, multiple studies found that there was a link between soldiers who were around burn pits and these diseases.

The Department of Defense estimated that nearly 3.5 million troops were affected by the exposure. That said, the DoD did not keep extensive records on what was burned at these pits and who was near them. This has made identifying what toxins were inhaled and who was made ill as a direct result of the burn pits near impossible.

This poor record keeping has made holding the DoD accountable very difficult for veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs has avoided the issue for years and has outright refused to provide medical and financial reimbursement for veterans affected by the standard practice.

The VA officially awarded some veterans with presumptive benefit status in the past few years, but some say this isn’t going to do enough to help those affected.

Worse yet, the US Military has not yet officially banned burn pits. However, overseas troops have taken steps to reduce burn pits; some wear protective gear while using the practice.

President Joe Biden and his administration are actively working on a solution for this problem. They have recently passed legislation to allow for more veterans to be compensated for the injuries they sustained from this practice.

President Joe Biden’s son, Beau Biden, died in 2015 due to rare brain cancer that some, including President Biden, speculate may have resulted from burn pits. For the President and American veterans, the passage of recent legislation is a significant win.


  1. As so often happens, yoour coverage of this issue is WAY late to the party and WAY incomplete. The bill has been passed and signed, despite the hissy fit Republicans threw to block it for a while.

  2. Seriously, a positive article about veterans and burn pits after your garbage reps BLOCKED it (and high fiving too!??). REPULSIVE

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