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Congressman Joaquin Castro

Representing the 20th District of Texas

Castro Remarks On Burn Pits Health Effects

Jun 7, 2018
Press Release

- As Delivered - Click Here for Video 

WASHINGTON—Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, First Vice Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and representative for Military City USA, made the following statement at a press conference that shed light on the harmful effects burn pits exposure has on our military’s service members and veterans:

“Thank you, Stacey, for that testimonial. Thank you all for being here today and most especially to veterans and families of veterans who have been affected by burn pits. Thank you for your presence and your advocacy here in our nation’s Capital. Thank you for helping us shed light on the health effects posed by exposure to burn pits to our men and women in uniform.

“I’m Joaquin Castro, Congressman from Texas, San Antonio—a city with a significant active duty and veteran population. In fact, San Antonio is known across the country as Military City U.S.A.

“Thank you to Congressman Raul Ruiz, from California, who started the Congressional Burn Pits Caucus with Congressman Brad Wenstrup from Ohio. And also thank you to Rosie Torres and Burn Pits 360 for your tireless advocacy for our veterans and their families. 

“Over the last decade there’s been a growing concern in Congress over the use of burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan and the potential health risk they pose to our military personnel serving in those countries. 

“As you all know, the toxic smoke from these pits may have both short term and long term health effects, especially for people who are exposed for long periods of time.

“The Defense Department has reported that there were, were 63 burn pits 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, the emissions, petroleum products and plastics. Exposure to them was very common.

“It’s devastating to hear about veterans who sacrificed so much for our nation and now experience multiple health issues including asthma, emphysema and other lung disorders, cancers, that they believe originated from their exposure to noxious fumes from burn pits.

“It’s critical that we continue to raise awareness about this issue, both on Capitol Hill and around the country. We need to energize and encourage as many veterans as possible who are exposed to burn pits to register with the Department of Veterans Affairs Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry so that we can analyze and understand the long term health effects of burn pit exposure.

“As of May 1st 2018, 141,246 veterans and service members have participated in the registry. However, the VA estimates that there are three million additional veterans and service members who are eligible to sign up.

“I’m doing what I can to get the word out to those eligible folks that this registry exists and the information that they provide will ultimately greatly benefit the health of their fellow service members and veterans.

“Last year, I led a bipartisan letter to the House of Veterans Affair Committee requesting a hearing on the use of burn pits and associated health effects.

“So I’m glad that Chairman Neal Dunn and Ranking Member Julia Brownley are holding a VA health subcommittee hearing on the burn pit issue today.

“Also today, I introduced the Family Member Access to Burn Pit Registry Act, which would allow a family member to participate in the burn pit registry on behalf of a deceased veteran or service member. This bill would fix the inability of family members to document the experience of a loved one in the burn pit registry.

“It is Congress’ responsibility to ensure that we’re providing service members and veterans with the care they need on this matter and so many others. We must stand up from them, the way they stood up for our nation.

“I’m hopeful that because of this gathering today, other elected officials and Congressional staffers will gain a better understanding of this issue and do the same.

“Thank you again to Rosie and to Burn Pits 360 for all your work, to the veterans and their families, and everyone else here today who is working with us and advocating with us on this important issue. With that, I’d like to introduce a veteran who was exposed to burn pits, Mr. Will Thompson.”

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