Understanding Burn Pits in Afghanistan

Map of Kabul. When it comes to war, there are many different types of hazards that one can expect to encounter. From combat to natural disasters, there are plenty of things that can happen to service members while serving overseas. Unfortunately, while one would expect that preventable injuries are few and far between, there are some preventable injuries that can have long-lasting effects. One of the most recent examples afflicting service members is that of burn pits in overseas military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even though there are some studies that debate the severity of exposure to toxins and fumes made by burn pits, there is plenty of litigation in which afflicted veterans assert that they have been injured from exposure to burn pits.

Burn Pits

As most people are aware, there are many forms of disposal when it comes to getting rid of refuse. Options can range anywhere from recycling to placing refuse in a landfill. Another option, however, is to burn the garbage in order to dispose of it. While incinerators are an option when it comes to dealing with refuse, conditions overseas do not always provide the safest environments to service members.

In addition, the variety of refuse that can get disposed at military bases overseas can provide exposure to a number of harmful toxins that could create illnesses or ailments that last for a lifetime. In the recent case, In re KBR Inc. Burn Pit Litigation, it was alleged that burned waste included such items as:

  • Trucks
  • Tires
  • Rubber
  • Batteries
  • Styrofoam
  • Metals
  • Asbestos
  • Chemicals
  • Medical waste
  • Bio-hazardous materials


While there is some dispute as to the relation between exposure to burn pits and adverse conditions alleged to result from exposure, the fact is that there are veterans who have suffered from symptoms relating to their exposure to fumes and toxins released into the air from burn pits while serving overseas. Symptoms range from moderate to severe and can include a wide number of ailments. In recent burn pit litigation, common ailments that veterans have alleged were the result of exposure to burn pits include, but are not limited to:

  • Asthma
  • Emphysema
  • Chronic coughs
  • Sleep apnea
  • Throat infections
  • Lung disorders


While one might expect to experience injuries, illnesses, or ailments resulting from burn pit exposure, there are a number of other issues one might encounter as a result of exposure to burn pits. Unfortunately, while the VA does do a significant amount of work to assist veterans, according to current studies performed by the Institute of Medicine, they currently have inadequate or insufficient evidence to suggest a relation between exposure to burn pits and any adverse conditions that are alleged to result from exposure. As a result, obtaining recovery or benefits from the VA as a result of damage caused by burn pits can become a much more trying and stressful ordeal than it might be for veterans who suffer from physical or mental impairments that result from their military service. That being said, while the VA does not acknowledge that exposure to burn pits could result in some forms of illness, they do provide a form of assistance to veterans through a burn pit registry.

What to Do

If you or someone you love has been affected or injured by burn pits while serving overseas in the military, there are several things you can do to help you along the road to recovery. While the VA’s position on the severity of burn pits can be questionable at times, one of the more helpful things you can do is to sign up on the VA’s burn pit registry. While the purpose of the registry is not to provide direct assistance to burn pit victims, one benefit of the registry is that it allows the VA to keep in contact with victims should any new concerns or developments come up. In addition, registering with the VA’s burn pit registry can help give a clearer picture of common illnesses or ailments caused by constant exposure to burn pits. For example, data drawn from the VA burn pit registry reveals that service members who worked at burn pits have higher rates of common repertory illnesses.

In addition, it is important to obtain the appropriate medical treatment and testing if possible. Even simple evaluations can help in evaluating the severity of any issues caused by exposure. Obtaining medical records detailing your medical history can help identify any pre-existing medical conditions of exposed individuals.

Another option would be to hire an attorney experienced in dealing with veteran affairs. Working with a skilled and experienced attorney can help you discover new ways to obtain remedy for any injuries or ailments sustained while you served in the military. In addition, a skilled attorney can help you obtain and organize information related to your case and can help identify any conditions or options you may not have previously identified.

Please contact the attorneys at Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel, P.A. if you require any legal assistance or have any questions regarding a legal matter.