Feb 7 2017

Today, U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced bipartisan legislation to help veterans who have been exposed to toxic burn pits. The Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act would create a center of excellence within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to better understand the health effects associated with burn pits and treat veterans who become sick after exposure. Last year, Klobuchar testified before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to discuss the need to dedicate staff and resources to exposure diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions stemming from exposure to burn pits.
“Many of our brave men and women in uniform were exposed to harmful substances from toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we have an obligation to care for them,” said Senator Tillis. “This bipartisan bill is the beginning of that commitment, providing resources to the VA to study the health effects caused by the burn pits and to provide treatment to veterans who became sick after exposure. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure our veterans have the care they need and deserve.”

“With an increasing number of our brave men and women returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan citing illnesses potentially caused by burn pits exposure, it’s clear that we can’t afford to wait,” said Senator Klobuchar. “Our bipartisan bill helps to move us in the right direction by dedicating staff and resources to address the health conditions related to the exposure of burn pits. We need to do right by our veterans and ensure they receive the care and support they need.”

The burning of waste on military bases exposed many servicemembers to a variety of potentially harmful substances. Plastic, aerosol cans, electronic equipment, human waste, tires, and batteries were thrown into open pits, often doused with jet fuel, and set on fire. As a result, many deployed soldiers were exposed to smoke from these open-air burn pits. Health effects from exposure to chemicals found in burn pits may include cancer, neurological effects, reproductive effects, respiratory toxicity, and cardiovascular toxicity. Troops who have worked in these areas are subject to higher rates of asthma, emphysema, and rare lung disorders.

Original co-sponsors of this legislation include Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Al Franken (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Tillis and Klobuchar also introduced this legislation in the last Congress.