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Congressman Joaquin Castro

Representing the 20th District of Texas

Castro Calls for Burn Pits Congressional Hearing

Oct 27, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and 10 fellow members of Congress sent a bipartisan letter to Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Representative Phil Roe (TN-01), and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Representative Tim Walz (MN-01), requesting a hearing on the use of burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan and the potential health risks they pose to military personnel.

“It’s devastating to hear of veterans who bravely sacrificed so much for our nation, and now experience serious health issues, including asthma, emphysema, and other lung disorders that are possibly linked to burn pit exposure,” said Rep. Castro. “It’s critical that we continue to raise awareness about this issue, especially here in Congress, so our veterans are able to receive the care and services they need.”

The Department of Defense (DoD) has reported that there were 63 burn pit sites in Iraq, and 197 in Afghanistan. These burn pits were used to discard waste at military sites and incinerated all types of waste products, including chemicals, paint, medical and human waste, munitions, petroleum products, and plastics. Exposure to them was common.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and DoD have commissioned several studies examining the adverse effects of exposure to burn pits. One of the most notable studies, conducted by the institute of Medicine in 2011, found evidence of a link of exposure to combustion products and reduced lung function. Additional studies from the Millennium Cohort Study and the National Health Study for a New Generation of U.S. Veterans, among others, are determining the long-term health effects from exposure to burn pits.

There are currently more than 115,000 veterans and active duty service members registered with the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, which the VA established in 2014 to help researchers study the health effects of burn pits.  However, the VA estimates that there are 3 million additional Veterans and service members who are eligible to sign up.

In addition to Rep. Castro, Reps. Joyce Beatty (OH-03), Ryan Costello (PA-06), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), Walter Jones (NC-03), Pete King (NY-02), James McGovern (MA-02), Chellie Pingree (MN-01), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Raul Ruiz (CA-36), and Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) also signed the letter.

The full letter can be viewed here: LINK