Friday, November 6, 2009

Military’s stance on burn pits assailed

Military’s stance on burn pits assailed

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Nov 6, 2009 13:01:40 EST

The Air Force bioenvironmental officer who was among the first to warn about the potential effects of open-air burn pits on U.S. troops deployed in the war zones said Friday that he does not believe the findings of a 2008 Army report that discounted the possibility of long-range health risks from exposure to the smoke, fumes and ash.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Darrin Curtis, a biomedical sciences officer who was deployed to Joint Base Balad, Iraq, in 2006 and 2007, told a Senate panel looking into military contracting issues that he believes the Army lacked the necessary data to conclude, as it did in a report from its Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, that long-term health effects from breaking smoke from burn pits is unlikely.

A new joint study by the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs Department is underway that focuses on comparing the health of 30,000 combat veterans who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and 30,000 veterans who never deployed to see whether there are signs of ill effects from exposure to burn pits. This is similar to post-Vietnam and post-Gulf War studies that took years to complete.

“Although I have no hard data, I believe that the burn pits may be responsible for long-term health problems in many individuals,” Curtis said. “I think we are going to look at a lot of sick people.”
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