Lawmakers ask GAO to review burn pit data

By Kelly Kennedy – Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday May 27, 2009 10:33:31 EDT 

After learning the Defense Department’s safety testing of a burn pit at Joint Base Balad in Iraq may have “significant methodological problems,” several lawmakers have requested a review by the Government Accountability Office.

“The [military] study found that exposures to burn-pit operations were at levels that constitute an ‘acceptable’ health risk for both cancer and non-cancer long-term health effects,” states the letter, dated May 22. “Based on our conversations with independent scientists, we are concerned that long-term adverse health effects cannot be ruled out on the basis of this study, and we would like the Government Accountability Office to evaluate the study’s methodology and findings.”

The letter comes after a series of Military Times articles showed troops have burned everything from petroleum products to dioxin-producing plastic bottles at bases throughout Iraq and Afghanistan. Since the first reports were published in October, more than 200 service members have come forward with complaints of asthma, sleep apnea, chronic coughs, rashes, leukemia and lymphomas.

Class-action lawsuits also have been filed in nine states against KBR, the Defense Department contractor that operated many of the burn pits, and Disabled American Veterans has begun collecting names for a database of people potentially exposed to the burn pits.  Legislation also was recently introduced to more tightly regulate the military’s use of burn pits in the war zone and more closely track the potential health effects of troops exposed to smoke from the pits.


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