Did Exposure To Burn Pits Cause Veterans’ Mysterious Ailments?

Andy Marso | Kansas City Public Media | December 29, 2014

This is the third installment of a three-part series on veterans’ health. The first part, which you can find here, deals with the military medical system. The second part, which you can find here, deals with mental health.

...Garrison, a 28-year-old from Leavenworth, experienced debilitating muscle pain for several days and was hospitalized at a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facility. He left with a cane that he was still using last month.

After multiple wartime deployments to Afghanistan as an infantryman and a supply specialist, Garrison has health conditions that are explainable: traumatic brain injury from the concussive blasts of explosives and post-traumatic stress disorder from the strain of combat. But he also has conditions that are harder to explain: nerve twitches, muscle weakness, fibromyalgia, chronic prostatitis, low testosterone.

In researching those symptoms in U.S. soldiers, he came across websites like Burn Pits 360, where other veterans discussed the potential hazards associated with the massive open air burn pits used to dispose of waste at U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. Garrison used those pits in his supply role. He remembered some of the things that were thrown into them: feces, human remains, the carcasses of diseased animals, batteries, spent ammunition casings, medical waste...