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Feces Filled Burn Pits In Middle East: Not As Fun As You'd Think

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Burn pits, God love ‘em. The perfect spot for family time with some s’mores, brews, a little jammin’ on the guitar, and perhaps your drunk uncle reminiscing about how his ex-wife took the dog, his sobs quietly drifting over the crackling of dry birch… Pure magic.

But not so much for our military members. Burn pits overseas tend to be a *little* bit bigger, and/or a tad more packed with human feces, various garbage, & chemicals. This is because they’re used as a major source of waste removal, from massive camps to tiny outposts. Out of the options for getting rid of junk, it’s easy & cheap to dig a hole & light it up, but unfortunately there’s a human cost.

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Side note, re: the photos above – can you imagine your job involves burn pit maintenance & having to pretend that those basic surgical masks were an effective shield against near constant exposure to toxic vapors? That’s like putting on a condom for intercourse with Tommy Lee. Meh, buddy,,, you’ll be fiiiiine.

Why am I bringing this up? Almost anyone who’s deployed to any of the following has been exposed to the pits:

  • -Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn
  • -Djibouti, Africa on or after September 11, 2001
  • -Operations Desert Shield or Desert Storm
  • -Southwest Asia theater of operations on or after August 2, 1990

And according to a Fox News report this year, they’ve officially been linked with severe illnesses:

A judge under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office for Workers’ Compensation Programs decreed last month that open-air burn pits — where thousands of chemicals were released into the air after trash and other waste were incinerated at American military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan — are connected to lung disease.

And now, just this month, veterans had a small victory in a battle to hold military contractor KBR Inc. & the government responsible. Via the New York Times:

On May 9, a federal appeals court heard oral arguments in a case about an explosive issue among U.S. veterans: the widespread use of burn pits in Iraq & Afghanistan, and the potential health consequences they suffered as a result.

The case, which dates back to 2008, consolidated dozens of lawsuits by hundreds of veterans and their families seeking to recover damages from the military contractor KBR Inc., but a trial court dismissed it in July 2017. It could be at a legal dead end unless the panel of judges, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., overturns the dismissal.

For the sake of vets effected everywhere, and those who have died due to complications associated with exposure, I hope the courts make the right decision. To me this is a case of bottom lines. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see this stuff is bad for you, but in the end it was cheaper to deal with the human cost over the time, money & energy of alternative waste disposal methods.

I’d offer to go full Erin Brokovitch on this, but I’m afraid my beauty would be too distracting.

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*Stoolie vets: If you think you might be effected by this, here’s a survey you can take that over 141,246 other vets have taken part in as of May 01, 2018. When you’re done, it *should* point you towards next steps.