Since returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, an untold number of soldiers have come down with puzzling health problems. Chronic bronchitis. Neurological defects. Even cancer. Many of them are pointing the finger at a single culprit: The open-air “burn pits” that incinerated trash — from human waste to computer parts — on military bases overseas.
“The dust doesn’t only appear to cause lung inflammation,” says Dr. Anthony Szema, an assistant professor at Stony Brook School of Medicine who specializes in pulmonology and allergies, and the researcher who led this latest study. “It also destroys the body’s own T-cells.” Those cells are at the core of the body’s immune system, “like a bulletproof vest against illnesses,” Szema tells Danger Room. When they’re depleted, an individual is much more prone to myriad conditions.
-Katie Drummond, on the health effects of extended exposure to “burn pits” in Iraq and Afghanistan. The environment around the pits are “rife with the fumes of incinerated “animal carcasses, asbestos insulation … lithium batteries, paints and paint strippers … copiers, printers, monitors, glues [and] styrofoam,” among other equipment, waste and chemical products.”
What does the Pentagon have to say about this?