(ABC4) – President Biden spoke to the country in the State of the Union address on Tuesday night, and made a point of discussing “burn pits,” a manner of disposing toxic material and trash used by the U.S. military.

The pits are said to cause a number of health issues for those that are near to them, as they create huge clouds of smoke that contain hazardous properties, which cause a number of different health issues.

The president states, “They come home, many of the world’s fittest and best-trained warriors in the world, never the same. Headaches. Numbness. Dizziness. A cancer that would put them in a flag-draped coffin.”

The discussion is personal for the president, as his son, Beau Biden, who died from brain cancer in 2015, is being looked at as a possible victim of this particular issue.

Burn pits have been compared with Agent Orange, which caused severe health issues to anyone exposed to it during the Vietnam War.

For those that served in Iraq, burn pits have become a major issue.

The open-air, uncontrolled combustion of trash and other waste causes extremely toxic substances to be released into the air, often times very close in proximity to where American troops are deployed.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), chemicals, human waste, paint, fuel, metal, plastics, rubber, and other materials can cause more health effects when in open air pits versus other controlled burns.

The exposure will have different effects on each person exposed, and they may range from from chronic migraines to fatal cancers.

Here is a list of some issues that burn pits can potentially cause:

  • Central nervous system function
  • Liver and kidney function
  • Cancers
  • Respiratory system function
  • Skin problems
  • Cardiovascular damage
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Migraine headaches

This list of issues is not comprehensive, and initial exposure to the pits may result in burning eyes, coughing and throat irritation, difficulty breathing, skin itching, and rashes.

The health issues are so prevalent that VA created a Burn Pit Registry, which was established in 2014 to gather data and help better understand the potential health effects of exposure to airborne hazards during military service.

You are eligible to participate if you served in Operations Desert Storm/Desert Shield, New Dawn, or Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom.

Given the number of veterans exposed to the burn pits, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and many others have brought the issue to federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill, but Veterans Affairs has still not determined presumptive diseases related to burn pits or provided health care eligibility for burn pit exposure.

Veterans to receive disability compensation for a condition they believe is a result of burn pit exposure must prove that the condition was caused by a specific exposure, a very challenging process that is often hard to complete.

The DAV has put forth the Veterans Burn Pit Exposure Recognition Act of 2021, which would “lower the burden of proof” for veterans and require VA to examine veterans to determine if their exposure is linked to a particular disease.

It would make it undeniable that veterans who served near burn pits were, in fact, exposed to airborne toxins.

The Comprehensive and Overdue Support for Troops (COST) of War Act of 2021 is sweeping legislation that would provide veterans suffering from a number of toxic exposures, including burn pits, with benefits and healthcare, increasing the federal government’s role and responsibility to provide the care needed for those who served our country.

Lastly, the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2021 is another piece of legislation that would, more specifically, establish a link of 23 different ailments, including respiratory diseases and cancers, to burn pits.

Chairman Jon Tester of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee states, “Providing health care and benefits to veterans suffering from the effects of toxic exposure is a cost of war that must be paid.”

Here is a resource provided by the DAV if you believe you suffer as a result of burn pit exposure.