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Burn Pits

Man throwing trash into a burn pit

Photo: U.S. Department of Defense

Burn pits have operated widely at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At this time, research does not show evidence of long-term health problems.

Responding to concerns of many returning Veterans, VA will continue to study the health risks and establish a burn pit registry for eligible Veterans. Learn more about VA's plan.

Health concerns?

If you are concerned about your exposure to burn pits, talk to your health care provider or local VA Environmental Health Coordinator.

VA health care is available to all combat Veterans for conditions possibly related to service for five years after discharge. Not enrolled in the VA health care system? Apply online.

Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom or New Dawn? Free Gulf War Registry exams are available regardless of the number of years after deployment. You don’t need to enroll in VA health care to take part. This is a different registry from the planned burn pit registry.

Health effects from burn pit smoke

Veterans who were closer to burn pit smoke or exposed for longer periods may be at greater risk. Health effects depend on a number of other factors, such as the kind of waste being burned and wind direction.

Research does not show evidence of long-term health problems from exposure to burn pits at this time. VA continues to study the health of deployed Veterans.

Toxins in burn pit smoke may affect the skin, eyes, respiratory and cardiovascular systems, gastrointestinal tract and internal organs.

Most of the irritation is temporary and resolves once the exposure is gone. This includes eye irritation and burning, coughing and throat irritation, breathing difficulties, and skin itching and rashes.

The high level of fine dust and pollution common in Iraq and Afghanistan may pose a greater danger for respiratory illnesses than exposure to burn pits, according to a 2011 Institute of Medicine report.

Type of waste burned

Waste products in burn pits include, but are not limited to: chemicals, paint, medical and human waste, metal/aluminum cans, munitions and other unexploded ordnance, petroleum and lubricant products, plastics and Styrofoam, rubber, wood, and discarded food.

Compensation benefits for health problems

Veterans may file a claim for disability compensation for health problems they believe are related to exposure to burn pits during military service. VA decides these claims on a case-by-case basis. File a claim online.

Read Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors to learn more about VA benefits.

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