What does Oswaldtwistle and Afghanistan have in common? -“Army memo from 2011 found the burn pit is associated with “long-term” health effects on soldiers…”


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Published on Tuesday, May 22, 2012 by Common Dreams

Leaked Memo Exposes Toxic US ‘Burn Pit’ in Afghanistan

Another ‘Agent Orange scenario’?

– Common Dreams staff

A recently leaked 2011 Army memo obtained by Danger Room reveals startling negligence by US officials regarding ‘burn pits’, or toxic waste sites at US bases in Afghanistan.

A bulldozer dumps a load of trash into a burn pit just 300 yards from the runway at Bagram Airfield, January 2012. An Army memo from 2011 found the burn pit is associated with “long-term” health effects on soldiers at Bagram. (Photo: U.S. Army) The leaked memo outlines the “long-term adverse health conditions” for troops breathing in toxic air from military trash burning sites. The adverse health affects have previously been hidden from public knowledge; however, the leaked memo states that high concentrations of dust and burned waste from such burn pits can cause “reduced lung function or exacerbated chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, atherosclerosis, or other cardiopulmonary diseases.”

The memo specifically references Bagram airfield’s apparently infamous ‘burn pit’ known by its expansiveness and pungent smell — a “smoldering barbecue of trash, from busted furniture to human waste, usually manned by Afghan employees who cover their noses and mouths with medical breathing masks,” according to Spencer Ackerman at the Danger Room.

The plumes of trash smoke from the ‘shit pit’ bellow over the base and into the Parwan Province’s “already dust-heavy air”.

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) have collected hundreds of anecdotes from vets pertaining to health problems tied to US burn pits, but claim their grievances have been consistently ignored by the Army.

The leaked memo’s notes that at least 40,000 Service Members and contractors’ health has been adversely affected by the toxic chemicals permeating the air and that millions more have served in Iraq and Afghanistan near similar burn pits.

The memo, however, does not mention the countless Afghan servicemen and civilians that have also been exposed to the fumes.

The Bagram pit is where US soldiers from the nearby Parwan detention facility incinerated the Koran, leading to days of rioting.

 * * *

Spencer Ackerman/The Danger Room report:

Leaked Memo: Afghan ‘Burn Pit’ Could Wreck Troops’ Hearts, Lungs

The cause of the health hazards are given the anodyne names Particulate Matter 10 and Particulate Matter 2.5, a reference to the size in micrometers of the particles’ diameter. Service personnel deployed to Bagram know them by more colloquial names: dust, trash and even feces — all of which are incinerated in “a burn pit” on the base, the memo says, as has been standard practice in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade.

“We don’t want another Agent Orange scenario, where it takes 40 years for the military to admit the stuff was bad and then has to spend all this effort tracking down affected servicemembers.”Accordingly, the health risks were not limited to troops serving at Bagram in 2011, the memo states. The health hazards are an assessment of “air samples taken over approximately the last eight years” at the base.

The memo’s findings contradict years of U.S. military assurances that the burn pits are no big deal. An Army memo from 2008 about the burn pit at Iraq’s giant Balad air base, titled, “Just The Facts,” found “no significant short- or long-term health risks and no elevated cancer risks are likely among personnel”. A 2004 fact sheet from the Pentagon’s deployment health library — and still available on its website — informed troops that the high particulate matter in the air at Bagram “should not cause any long-term health effects.” More recently, in October 2010, a Pentagon epidemiological study found “for nearly all health outcomes measured, the incidence for those health outcomes studied among personnel assigned to locations with documented burn pits and who had returned from deployment, was either lower than, or about the same as, those who had never deployed”.

A C-130 Hercules transport plane flies through a tower of smoke caused by open burning in a trash pit at Bagram Airfield.Over the years, thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have experienced respiratory and cardiopulmonary problems that they associate with their service. Some have sued military contractors for exposing them to unsafe conditions. For months, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) has urged the military to create a database of vets suffering neurological or respiratory afflictions, a move that’s winding through the legislative process. But the military has argued it doesn’t have sufficient evidence to associate environmental conditions on the battlefield with long-term health risks — and it argued that months after this memo is dated. […]

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has collected “hundreds” of anecdotes from vets complaining of health problems connected to serving near burn pits. “It’s good to see someone in the military is acknowledging there are going to be long-term problems with burn pits, but it’s disturbing that this memo is more than a year old and it doesn’t seem like the military has done anything about it,” says Tom Tarantino, IAVA’s deputy policy director, who deployed to Iraq in 2005 as an Army captain. “I lived next to a burn pit for six months at Abu Ghraib. You can’t tell me that was OK. That was pretty nasty. While I was there everyone was hacking up weird shit.” […]

“The acknowledgement that air-sampling data is now indicating that burn pits may pose a risk of chronic illness to our servicemen and women validates the need for the national burn pit registry that I have proposed,” Akin says. Tarantino backs him up: “We don’t want another Agent Orange scenario, where it takes 40 years for the military to admit the stuff was bad and then has to spend all this effort tracking down affected servicemembers.”

For the full report read here.

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  • Deano

    Every US military base is a toxic dump. It’s Part of the Pentagon’s war against the environment.

  • Caleb Abell

    “The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) have collected hundreds of anecdotes from vets pertaining to health problems tied to US burn pits, but their grievances have been consistently ignored by the Army.”

    In the US, the citizens are trained to worship veterans, but the pentagon seems to think they are no better than the trash in the burn pits.

  • gardenernorcal

    Why are we employing burn pits?  With all the money we’ve spent there why haven’t proper incinerating facilities been established?

    “The Afghan insurgency’s second largest funding source after the illegal drug trade is the diversion of money from U.S.-backed construction projects and transportation contracts, according to the commission.”

    http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/…

    “The U.S. has wasted or misspent $34 billion contracting for services in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a draft report by a bipartisan congressional panel, the most comprehensive effort so far to tally the overall cost of a decade of battlefield contracting in America’s two big wars. The three-year investigation comes from the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, which was established by Congress in 2008. Its final report, expected to be sent to Capitol Hill in the next few weeks, lays out in detail the failure of federal agencies to properly manage and oversee grants and contracts set to exceed a total of $206 billion by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.”https://www.facebook.com/notes… you look at it a state of the art refuse disposal facility could have been built many times over and would have been safe for the workers and the environment.  Yet we’re still spewing pollutants into the atmosphere.  Who are the “terrorists”?

  • beaglebailey

    We already know ‘who’ the real terrorists are in the GWOT.
    Remember when other presidents would go after this type of corruption?
    Now, even when a company has been proven corrupt, they still get new contracts. Another transfer of wealth by no bids.
    During Katrina, a company would get $100,000,000 no bid contract then sub contract it out times 3 and pay pennies to the workers and pocket the change.
    The mighty US, destroying one country after another while “Spreading Democracy” by leaving cancer causing agents behind.
    And WE happy taxpayers get to foot the bill while States and Government cuts off funding to desparate people and closes schools.

  • Spktruth

    They are burning all the stuff they took over there and dont want to pay to bring back. Its costing US taxpayers $l million to go through Pakistan…Afganistan is a landlocked country. pakistan is the easiest wayout. The are burning everything they dont want to bring out so the “taliban”hahaha, wont use it…not thinking the poor destitute people who live there might be able to use it…can you spell reparations.
    Wonder what the military will do now with all those poppie fields they restarted after the Taliban shut em down. Those poppy fields are manned by our troops…keeping the war machine busy goin in, and coming out with heroin for worldwide distribution. Note: they dont speak about the soldiers now addicted to heroin, or perhaps they will call it a pre existing condition.

  • MrTuttle

    The Ruling elite Do Not Care about soldiers never have in all of history. Soldiers are fodder and tools for killing. Period. I hope very soon that the majority of Vets will be shown the light and that they have been betrayed by the memorial culture that they were raised in. There is little honor in sacrificing your life for the protection of corporations that see only as a target market and consumer and look to crush your ability to protect your self as a citizen.

    I think there is Honor in defending your rights, family, neighborhood, city, and even country but the only invaders I see are the criminal Bankers & Corporations cloaked in the rotting wrap of a “Democratic” Government.

  • This report highlights yet again the contempt the US Military have for its own people and those of the country they continue to occupy.  Agent Orange used in the headline are true, I’m just back from Vietnam where the effects of Agent Orange is still causing suffering to 4.8 million Vietnamese, and Monsant and Dow etc still refuse to accept responsibilty.

  • 2_rhetts

    This is all in accord with “6 Sigma” Business practices… or, if you will – for full ironic impact…
    “Sigma 6″… G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero… by Hasbro.
    The clever ones will discern the marriage of convenience between business and the War Industry.
    Read it and weep…

  • JohnR654

    What the Army/government wants is for everyone talking about/exposing this is for them to shut up and go away.  These trouble makers are just causing problems where there are none . . . They wouldn’t lie to us now would they ?  Same as it ever was.

  • dougulator

    fucking pigs

  • Weisman

    Dougulator:  Pigs are gentle. loving creatures.  The sick, pathectic scum that commit these atrocities are virtually all U.S. Government Subsidized Humans.

  • Lloyd

    Our pathetic disregard for Nature, as a species gifted with the highest intelligence of any other on this Planet, is suicidal. Ultimately, humans will be the driving force behind our own, and thousands of other species, extinction. Nature will persevere.
    It will repair the damage and try another approach. If you are a parent who has brought an innocent child into this environmental tragedy,… I think you should be ashamed.

  • Guest

    The NWO has risen and they could give a rats a** about pollution and our vets health. The only reason we are there is to steal the resources from them-oil, gold, and heroin and set up 14  permanent military bases in the region with the help of Israel and Britain. Our soldiers aren’t fighting for duty, honor and country any more (I am a vet), they fight for KBR (Haliburton) British Petroleum and Exxon Mobil.  We are not establishing Democracyin Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and soon Iran and Syria- either- and the sooner our own troops stop fighting for these corporations and dying for them, all for their profits, and put down their weapons of mass destruction, then we can have peace on earth, and end these wars.

    Truth Hurts Lies Kill. Real Truth Behind the Phony Wars by Dr Dahlia Wasfihttp://www.youtube.com/wa…

  • braithwa842

    Well if it is not good for the soldiers who reside there temporarily it is obviously not going to be good for the locals. But this is evidently not even an issue.

  • beaglebailey

    Are the soldiers really that naive to think breathing in all that toxic smoke is safe? Didn’t any of them read about the health problems of the fire and police after they declare the air at  Ground Zero safe? How many of them are even alive today? Not many.
    Then, there are the soldiers that are sick from the Iraq burn pits.
    It doesn’t seem that hard to figure out.

  • WASABIMON

    IF THEY WERE GULLABLE ENOUGH TO THINK THAT BEING IN THE MILITARY WAS PROTECTING AMERICA INSTEAD OF DOING SOMEONE ELSES DIRTY WORK THEN YES—THEY PROBABLY DONT GET IT

  • GreenwichAvenue

    We have a POVERTY driven army which replaced the draft.

    America is in a depression.

    Sure — I’d love to see soldiers walking away from the military.
    Laying down their arms.

    But that’s as unrealistic once they are there as the idea that we can force a corrupt government to give up perpetual wars which enrich the few — wars of aggression – American imperialism.

    Until we all decide to stand up against the evils of capitalism and imperialism and oust the criminals running our govenrment and our Pentagon — and our CIA — then let’s not try to suggest that it’s up to others to bring about an end to war.

    Meanwhile, the growing brutality of our government and police enforcement vs protesters is yet another feature of the growing fascism in America.  This is a government at war on its citizens and at war on our Constitution.

    The rise of the RW in America has brought new tools of violence to government and police enforcement — violence against citizens without which fascism cannot take hold.

    WAKE UP, AMERICA — !!

  • Onetodo

    Much cheaper fdor the F*&king Military to burn this waste than to care about the health of the soldiers who serve. I presonallay burned shit in the ‘Nam….I know how this works. Damn the troops full pollution ahead 😦

  • When the military commissioned toxicology studies of Depleted Uranium, they focused exclusively on the radiological.  Doing so allowed them to say it was safe in any form for limited exposure.
    It’s as if they did not need any studies to know it was nearly 1000X more chemically toxic than it was radiologically toxic – a fact completely ignored by their studies, and thus was not included in their considerations.
    Since then, thousands of tons of DU weaponry was used in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The worst part of it is that it chemically does damage to one’s DNA – it literally passes the damage down from parents to children.  So genetic damage will continue to build up within everyone living in those two regions from generation to generation until the DU is cleaned up.  Eventually, the genetic damage will be too great for any fetus to be viable.  Unless hundreds of billions of dollars are spent to clean up the DU in both regions, we will have committed genocide.

  • holdbar

    The US military has a long history of poisoning it’s own:

    For two decades the Jinkanpo incinerator was operated just up-wind of the family housing units on Atsugi Naval Air Facility (near Tokyo, Japan).
    http://www.atsugi-incinerator-…

    Marine Camp Lejeune covered up toxins in the tap water for three decades:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…

    For decades long industrial poisoning to continue everyone, from the environmental tech collecting the sample, the chemist in the lab, the base environmental officer, the base commanding officer, the regional Admiral/General and the DoD chief of environmental affairs would have to be involved in the coverup.

    Yet no one goes to jail.

  • galen066

    This isn’t negligence. This is common practice.

    And the poster who said that the US Military is burning these materials (which YOUR taxes paid for, by the way) because they can’t afford to ship them back to the US was correct, as well as to keep them out of the local economy that would use and reuse them for far longer than the US did in the first place.

  • WASABIMON

    as usual the pentagon deems themselves not accountable for anything—just another reason to convince these mis-guided suckers not to join .we who understand the actions of our out of control govt and military need to concentrate on educating the people before they join.

  • holdbar

    Pierre Sprey, who developed the A-10 & the F-16, was recently on Background Briefing (Ian Masters) and said that the F-22 is making people sick. The people who build the plane, the people who maintain the plane and the pilots all get sick. His guess is that the glue used to hold the composite layers (forming the body of the plane) together is harmful.

    Sprey also thinks that the coating that is applied to the outside of the plane to help make the plane stealthy may be making people sick. This coating needs to be reapplied if the plane flies through rain or dust. Additionally, he says Russia sells a radar that can see the F-22 and America is just kidding it’s self about stealth in order to keep the money rolling to Lockheed-Martin.

    CBS’s news show, 60 Minutes, recently did a show on two pilots that refuse to fly the F-22 and none of this was discussed.

    60 Minutes also forgot to mention that the F-22 is a “hanger queen” and the pilots can only fly the plane 8-12 hours a month due to excessive maintenance and that no pilot can excel with that little flying time in a plane.

    One wonders if the new passenger composite body plane Boeing is building now, the 787 Dreamliner, going to have the same glue/composite issues?

  • It’s more economically feasible to do thing’s at the lowest cost. People are just collateral dammage.

  • Which is worse? The exposure from these burn pits of the 11,000 U.S. troops who died from exposure to depleted  uranium dust in Iraq. How many thousands more got and will continue to get cancer from this exposure?

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