Report at a Glance
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.
During deployment to a war zone, military personnel can be exposed to a variety of environmental hazards, many of which have been associated with long-term adverse health outcomes such as cancer and respiratory disease. Many veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have health problems that they worry are related to their exposure to burn pits on military bases. Special attention has been focused on the burn pit at Joint Base Balad (JBB), one of the largest U.S. military bases in Iraq and a central logistics hub.