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Insufficient data on service members' exposures to emissions from open-air burn pits for trash on military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan is one of the reasons why it is not possible to say whether these emissions could cause long-term health effects, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine. High background levels of ambient pollution from other sources and lack of information on the quantities and composition of wastes burned in the pits also complicate interpretation of the data.
A significant percentage of military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were exposed to open air pits in which large quantities of wastes were burned on military bases, including Joint Base Balad, a large, central logistics hub for U.S. forces in Iraq. Long-Term Health Consequences of Exposure to Burn Pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, a new report by the Institute of Medicine, assesses what conclusions can be drawn from available evidence about the risk for health consequences for service members who came into proximity of these waste disposal pits.