U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal on burn pits' effects

Kaylah Jackson
January 14, 2019 - 3:03 pm

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony L. Ortiz / Released

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The U.S. Supreme Court decided Monday, not to hear an appeal by U.S. service members who claim smoke from open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan caused health problems. 

Over 150,000 veterans and service members have reported being exposed to toxic airborne chemicals from burn pit use. According to the VA, toxins from burn pit smoke can affect internal organs, skin, and even the respiratory system, resulting in breathing challenges for many veterans.

Related: Like a breath of fresh air: Court finds burn pits caused lung disease

KBR Inc. and Halliburton C., both companies that provided water disposable services to troops in Afghanistan and Iraq were the focus of the Supreme Court case, according to Reuters.  There have been an alleged over 60 lawsuits against the organizations from service members who claim the practice of dumping tires, batteries and medical waste into open burn pits created harmful smoke and in turn caused physiological problems.

Rather than hearing the bid of these veterans, the Supreme Court asserted that health concerns of these burn pits lie with the military and as a result, the courts “are not equipped to second-guess” the military’s requirement to use burn pits to dispose of solid waste.

Many Post 9/11 veterans have been advocating for legislation requiring the government to investigate service member’s exposure to open burn pits and study the impact of inhaling toxic exposures. 

The Burn Pits Accountability Act, introduced by two veterans, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Brian Mast (R-Fla.) last year, would push these research efforts and encourage ways to best treat veterans who currently experience health issues as a result of inhaling the toxic chemicals.

Members of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America are hoping to reintroduce and pass the act in this new legislative session.

While legal action regarding burn pits is still in progress, veterans can record their experiences online through the Veteran Affairs’ Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. The VA hopes to use results from this registry to better study the health of deployed veterans.

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