With Pentagon approval, the military for years now has been responsible for burning garbage in the U.S./Middle Eastern war zones, rather than burying it, causing a plethora of deadly toxins to be realized poisoning our American soldiers, civilians, and the environment. If that wasn’t concerning enough, a recent tell-all publication by veteran and journalist Joseph Hickman, The Burn Pits: The poisoning of America’s Soldiers, has been banned by the Pentagon, raising concerns of both censorship and citizen safety within the American government system. “Hickman’s Burn Pits exposes a link between military service near burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan and serious maladies, including everything from respiratory illnesses to rare brain cancers,” (Kiriakou, 2016).
Burn pits are described as this generation’s Agent Orange according to an article released last fall by Environmental Health News. In the Iraq and Afghanistan wars various plastics, styrofoam, electronics, and other hazardous materials were getting burned, (Bienkowski, 2015). This is a huge problem, with long-term health consequences that have yet to be addressed by the U.S. government. Hickman, the author of the burn pit tell-all, and also a journalist wrote a recent VICE article indicating that these pits were as large as ten acres, burning more that fifty tons of trash per day,
Hickman says that as far back at 2004, US veterans have been coming home sick. Anything could be burned from a period of 2002-2009, with no regulation whatsoever. Symptoms started out as little congestive annoyances such as runny noses but as time went on escalated to cancer and death, (Hickman, 2016). Because the government has decided to stick its head in the sand over the issue thus far, veterans who have protected our country now are being neglected as their health deteriorates back home. Policy needs to be implemented over burn pits to help aid veterans and civilians who have been affected by this issue.
Hickman’s book, despite the ban, is a best seller on Amazon and has been favorably received around the world, despite the US government’s unwillingness to acknowledge the issue at hand (Kiriakou, 2016). The problem has been reported by environmental and human welfare groups, and other independent media outlets such as VICE, the Guardian, Truth Dig. However, there have been few corporate news stories addressing the issue. One NBC report, for example, identified military expenses of $81.9 million on incinerators “that either weren’t used or harmed troops,” noting that items such as batteries and tires were burning in Afghanistan’s 251 burn pits.
Bienkowski, Brian. “Media: Is the US Ignoring Military Burn Pits’ Harm to Middle East Civilians?” Environmental Health News, October 16, 2015, http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2015/oct/media-is-the-us-ignoring-military-burn-pits2019-harm-to-middle-east-civilians.
Hickman, Joseph. “Thousands of US Veterans Are Sick and Dying Because of Burning Garbage.” VICE News, February 16, 2016. https://news.vice.com/article/thousands-of-us-veterans-are-sick-and-dying-because-of-burning-garbage-burn-pits
Kiriakou, John. “How the Pentagon Is Trying to Cover Up the Toxic Effects of Its Deadly Burn Pits.” Truthdig, March 13, 2016. http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/pentagon_trying_to_cover_up_toxic_effects_of_its_deadly_burn_pits_20160313
Student Researcher: Kate Libby (University of Vermont)
Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams (University of Vermont)