Veterans Are Sick Because the Military Dumped Trash in Massive Burn Pits

Many American troops were injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars not by bombs or bullets, but by something seemingly innocuous: getting rid of trash. The American military dumped garbage -- human waste, dead animals, paper, plastic, electronics, batteries, asbestos, whatever — into huge pits and set it all on fire with jet fuel. The particles the burn pits spewed are causing lung problems for some troops, according to an investigative report by The Verge's Katie Drummond. This despite long-standing military policy and environmental recommendations to avoid using burn pits.

Movie-goers might remember the poop-burning scene from Jarhead, but these trash piles don't just consist of human waste, the Verge reports. Drummond explains, "The military’s burn pits emitted particulate matter laced with heavy metals and toxins -- like sulfur dioxide, arsenic, dioxins, and hydrochloric acid -- that are linked to serious health ailments." They sent black soot high into the air.

Needless to say, inhaling these airborne particles is bad for the lungs, as The Verge discovered in detail when speaking with several former soldiers. "I remember waking up with soot on me; you'd come out and barely see the sun because it was so dark from the smoke," said 28-year-old Air Force veteran Dan Meyer, who lived near an Afghanistan burn pit and now needs an oxygen tank to breathe. "We always called it 'black snow.'" That snow affected Le Roy Torres in Iraq, as well, when he was stationed next to Balad base's 10-acre wide burn pit. "It started with a cough. I was coughing up this gunk stuff, like black phlegm that kept coming and coming," he said. "The medical officer told me it was 'Iraqi crud' and it'd go away in a few days. I thought, 'I’ve been here a month, how much longer?'"

Read more on The Atlantic Wire

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.