Sunday, February 28, 2010

Legislation Introduced for Medical Monitoring for Burn Pit Exposures


Rep. Tim Bishop (NY-1) and lead cosponsor Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1) introduced the Military Personnel Toxic Exposure Registry Act. This bill builds on successful legislative efforts over the last year to prohibit the disposal of toxic waste in open air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan and to ensure that the thousands of troops exposed to these dangerous burn pits receive proper medical care. 


The Omaha World-Herald has recently reported about a US Marine who died of lung cancer following exposure to dust and fumes from burn pits in Iraq,


The new legislation calls for a complete history of all burn pits used in Iraq and Afghanistan; a registry of all troops exposed to those burn pits; physical examinations for those exposed to burn pits; annual reports to Congress on burn pits related sicknesses; and a ban on the burning of plastics in large burn pits. 

“This new legislation is exactly what we need,” said John Wilson, Assistant National Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans. “It is critically important that our government takes the next logical step to protect and care for our veterans who are suffering and who will potentially suffer from exposure to toxic fumes and debris in Iraq and Afghanistan. Likewise, we must also acknowledge and assist survivors of those service members who died from this exposure. We at the Disabled American Veterans strongly urge the military to determine and document what has been put into these pits and who has been exposed to them...."

Hundreds of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are becoming sick and even dying from what appears to be overexposure to dangerous toxins produced by these burn pits. Symptoms include chronic bronchitis, asthma, sleep apnea, chronic coughs, and allergy-like symptoms. Several also have cited heart problems, lymphoma, and leukemia.

Click here to read more about burn pit exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Click here to read more about Iraq and Afghanistan worksite burn pit exposure claims.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Institute of Medicine to Start Burn Pit Health Study



The Institute of Medicine is going to commence a study of the health effects of the exposure to dust and fumes. Burn pits were utilized in Iraq and Afghanistan to improperly incinerate trash including toxic substances and human biological waste.
Soldiers and civilian contractors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have serious medical issues and some have been fatal.
The NY Times reported:
"Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) attended the committee meeting and applauded the VA for taking 'an important step forward.'"
"'This is an issue that should be definitive in terms of the science,' Bishop said. 'I don't think this is mysterious. I think that a careful, methodical study will yield the results that anecdotal evidence has already shown, and that will allow us to act.'"
Click here to read more about the chemical exposures in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Click here to read more about the Iraq and Afghanistan worksite chemical exposure cancer claims.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Senator Levin Calls for Greater Scrutiny of Government Contractors

A US Senate Committee concluded an investigation of government military contractors and has called for greater scrutiny of them. The need for more oversight was the finding of of the Senate Armed Services Committee after it investigated their actions and found troubling gaps.

"Blackwater operated in Afghanistan without sufficient oversight or supervision and with almost no consideration of the rules it was legally obligated to follow," said Sen. Carl Levin, the committee's chairman.

Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan have been reported to have exposed military personnel and civilians to toxic dust and fumes through the inappropriate use of burn pits.


Complete article is reported in The Hill.

Click here to read more about the chemical exposures in Iraq.

Air Force Veteran Warns of Burn Pit Hazards




A former member of the US Air Force, Tony Roles, tells of his exposure to toxic waste dust and fumes of burn pits in Iraq. He was stationed at Balas Air Force Base in Iraq as a weather forecaster. Upon his return he was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder.

Exposures to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan have give rise to a multiple of law suits against government contractors who operated the burn pits.

Click here to read more about the chemical exposures in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Click here to read more about the Iraq and Afghanistan worksite chemical exposure cancer claims. 




VA Officials Set Plan to Study Burn Pit Exposures

At recent hearings at the Institutes of Health, Veterans Affairs Department officials set out a plan to study burn pit exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We have a particular need to solve this as best as we can,” said Victoria Cassano, acting director of VA’s Environmental Agents Service. “You tell us what the science is. You tell us what the evidence is. Do we have enough to [move] forward with a presumption or not?”


Complete report in the Army Times.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Death of Soldier Alleged to be Result of Burn Pit Exposure


The exposure to toxic dust and fumes from burn pits in Iraq have been reported to have been allegedly linked to the death of a soldier.  The Omaha World-Hearld reports that the death of 25 year old Sgt. Klayton Thomas from lung cancer was reportedly causally connected to the exposure that he suffered in Iraq.

Burn pits have been used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan  by the military and civilian contractors to disposed of hazards waste. Congress had held hearings concerning their use and alleged resulting disease prompting The National Academies to hold hearings on the exposures.Multiple lawsuits have been filed against major military contractors seeking benefits. 
Click here to read more about the chemical exposures in Iraq.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Veterans Tell of Burn Pit Toxins

Veterans are beginning to speak openly about the toxic exposures they were subjected to at the burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan and the serious health problems that they now are experiencing. Organized groups of disabled veterans have called upon the military to address their concerns reports Daniel Zucchino in The Los Angeles Times.

The troops constructed massive burn pits to dispose of waste and burned medical waste, plastics, electrical components, oils, lubricants, paint, tires, dioxin, benzene,  and many other toxic substances without any environmental controls. Congressman Timothy H. Bish (D-NY), who co-sponsored legislation prohibiting such activity indicated that the US Army is operating 84 burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. The National Academies are holding hearing to study the long term consequences of these exposures,

Returning veterans are reporting alleging multiple medical conditions including respiratory illness and cancer, sometime fatal. Many soldiers and civilian contractors have been exposed to dust and fumes from the burn pits.  Lawsuits have been filed on behalf of the veterans and civilian contracts who have been exposed.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

National Academies to Hold Meetings on Burn Pit Exposures in Iraq & Afghanistan


The long term consequences of exposure to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan will be the subject of  committee meetings at The National Academies. The first committee meeting is scheduled on February 23 and 24, 2010 at the Keck Center, 500 5th Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20001. 


The exposures to burn pits have been the subject of multiple law suits alleging multiple medical conditions including respiratory illness and cancer, sometime fatal. Many soldiers and civilian contractors have been exposed to dust and fumes from the burn pits.


The planned agenda is:


February 23, 2010

NOTE: Space is limited; please let us know in advance if you plan to attend the meeting. An open microphone session is planned for the end of the public meeting. Each speaker will be limited to five minutes to address the committee due to time constraints and in the interest of allowing as many people to speak. Please let us know in advance if you wish to address the committee during this session.

1:00 – 1:30 pm Background and Charge to the Committee

Dr. Victoria A. Cassano, Director, Radiation and Physical Exposures, Acting Director Environmental Agents Service, Department of Veterans Affairs

1:30 – 2:15 pm DOD's Current and Future Health Surveillance Studies Related to Burn Pit Smoke Exposures

R. Craig Postlewaite, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Health Protection and Readiness Programs, Department of Defense

2:15 – 3:15 pm Overview of Army Public Health Command's (Provisional;
formerly US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine) Completed and Ongoing Studies on Health Risks Related to Burn Pits


Mr. Jeffrey S. Kirkpatrick, Director of Health Risk Management; Dr. Coleen B. Baird, Program Manager, Environmental Medicine Program US Army Public Health Command (Provisional; formerly US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine)

3:15 – 4:15 pm Open Microphone [5 minutes per speaker]

4:15 pm Adjourn Open Session



The purpose of the meeting is to discuss a proposed project to study the long term consequences of exposure to the burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.



Project Scope
An IOM committee will determine the long term health effects of exposure to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Specifically, the committee will use the Balad Burn Pit in Iraq as an example and examine existing literature that has detailed the types of substances burned in the pits and their by-products.  The committee will also examine the feasibility and design issues for an epidemiologic study of veterans exposed to the Balad burn pit.

The committee will explore the background on the use of burn pits in the military.  Areas of interest to the committee might include but are not limited to investigating:

·         Where burn pits are located, what is typically burned, and what are the by-products of burning;
·         The frequency of use of burn pits and average burn times; and
·         Whether the materials being burned at Balad are unique or similar to burn pits located elsewhere in Iraq and   Afghanistan.

The project sponsor is the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The approximate start date is November 1, 2009.

Members of the committee are:
Dr. David J. Tollerud, Sr. - (Chair)
University of Louisville, School of Public Health and Information Sciences

Dr. Tollerud is a professor and chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the School of Public Health and Information Sciences at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky. He has extensive clinical training, with specialty board certifications in internal medicine, pulmonary and critical care medicine, and occupational medicine. Dr. Tollerud has research expertise in environmental and occupational health, epidemiology, and immunology, and consulting experience in the areas of occupational and environmental respiratory disease, medical surveillance, and workplace injury prevention programs. He served as the chair of the Committee on the Disposition of the Air Force Health Study, and he has served on the IOM's Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice and on a number of IOM committees since 1992.



Dr. John R. Balmes
University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine

Dr. Balmes is a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and chief of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at San Francisco General Hospital. He is also a professor of environmental health sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, and director of the Northern California Center for Occupational and Environmental Health. Dr. Balmes studies the respiratory health effects of various air pollutants. He has a particular interest in occupational respiratory disease. He has investigated the acute effects of inhalation exposures to ambient air pollutants in his human exposure laboratory at San Francisco General Hospital and the chronic effects of such exposures in epidemiological studies with collaborators at the University of California, San Francisco and the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Balmes also is investigating genetic determinants of responses to air pollutants. He has led research, funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to assist in the development of a national program to link environmental hazards with health outcome data to improve the tracking of diseases potentially related to environmental exposures. He is also the physician member of the California Air Resources Board. He is currently a member of the NRC's Committee for the Review of the Army's Enhanced Particulate Matter Surveillance Project Report. Dr. Balmes received his M.D. from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.



Dr. Edmund A.C. Crouch
Cambridge Environmental, Inc. 

Dr. Crouch is a senior scientist with Cambridge Environmental Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has published widely in the areas of risk assessment, and presentation and analysis of uncertainties. He has co-authored a major text in risk assessment, Risk/Benefit Analysis. Dr. Crouch serves as an expert advisor to various local and national agencies concerned with public health and the environment, and has served on a number of National Academy of Science committees, including the Committee on Health Effects of Waste Incineration. Dr. Crouch received his Ph.D. in High Energy Physics from Cambridge University.



Dr. Francesca Dominici
Harvard University 

Dr. Dominici is a professor of biostatistics in the Harvard School of Public Health at Harvard University. Dr. Dominici’s research has focused on the interface between the methodological development of hierarchical models and their applications to multi-level data. She has extensive experience on the development of statistical methods and their applications to clinical trials, toxicology, biology, and environmental epidemiology. Her main research interest is in the development of statistical models and the conduct of epidemiological studies to estimate the health effects of air pollution. She has served on a number of National Academies’ committees including the Committee on Gulf War and Health: Review of the Medical Literature Relative to Gulf War Veterans’ Health; the Committee to Assess Potential Health Effects from Exposures to PAVE PAWS Low-Level Phased-array Radiofrequency Energy; and the Committee on The Utility of Proximity-Based Herbicide Exposure Assessment in Epidemiologic Studies of Vietnam Veterans. Dr. Dominici received her Ph.D. in statistics at the University of Padua, Italy.



Dr. Ellen A. Eisen
University of California, Berkeley 

Dr. Eisen is an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health and Harvard School of Public Health. Her research focuses on the interface between epidemiologic methods and applied public health. Dr. Eisen has studied the respiratory effects of a variety of occupational exposures, including
granite dust containing silica, cotton dust, endotoxin, and metalworking fluids. Her studies of longitudinal decline in pulmonary function among Vermont granite workers exposed to silica identified excess test variability (poor reproducibility) of FEV1 as a biomarker of impaired respiratory health and a source of selection bias in epidemiologic studies. Dr. Eisen has also published many studies of the health effects, particularly cancer, in relation to exposure to metalworking fluids in autoworkers. Dr. Eisen has served on numerous NRC and IOM committees, including the Committee on Asbestos: Selected Health Effects and the Committee on the Health Effects of Mustard Gas and Lewisite. Dr. Eisen earned her Sc.D. in biostatistics and occupational health from the Harvard School of Public Health.



Dr. Mark W. Frampton
University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry

Dr. Frampton is a professor of medicine and environmental medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. He is also the medical director of the Pulmonary Function Laboratory at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Dr. Frampton is board certified in Internal Medicine and Pulmonary Diseases, and his research focuses on human clinical studies of the health effects of gaseous and particulate air pollution. He has served as a member on the external scientific advisory committees of the Southern California and Harvard Particulate Matter Centers, and as a consultant for the California Air Resources Board. Dr. Frampton received his M.D. from the New York University School of Medicine.



Dr. Petros Koutrakis
Harvard School of Public Health 

Dr. Koutrakis received a Ph.D. in Environmental Chemistry from the University of Paris in 1984. He is a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, Head of the Exposure, Epidemiology and Risk Program and the Director of the EPA/Harvard University Center for Ambient Particle Health Effects. His research activities focus on the development of human exposure measurement techniques and the investigation of sources, transport, and the fate of air pollutants. In collaboration with his colleagues in the Environmental Chemistry Laboratory, he has developed ambient particle concentrators and high volume samplers that can be used to conduct human and animal inhalation studies. He has also developed a personal ozone monitor, a continuous fine particle measurement technique and several other sampling methods for a variety of gaseous and particulate air pollutants. These novel techniques have been used extensively by air pollution scientists and human exposure assessors in United States and worldwide. Dr. Koutrakis has conducted a number of comprehensive air pollution studies in the United States, Canada, Spain, Chile, Kuwait, Cyprus and Greece that investigate the extent of human exposures to gaseous and particulate air pollutants. Other research interests include the assessment of particulate matter exposures and their effects on the cardiac and pulmonary health. Dr. Koutrakis is a member national and international committees and the past Technical Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association. He has published over 170 peer reviewed papers in the areas of air quality, exposure and health effects assessment and instrumentation.



Dr. Jacob D. McDonald
Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute 

Dr. McDonald is a scientist and director of the Chemistry and Inhalation Exposure Program at Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute. He conducts research that bridges his education and experience in analytical chemistry, aerosol science, and toxicology. Dr. McDonald has experience in the aerosolization and vaporization of gases and particles for a wide range of applications. He has an interest in developing laboratory exposures that represent “real world” conditions, and conducting characterizations of these exposures that allow toxicity results to be placed in the context of human exposures to entire environmental pollutants or drug products. His work spans the study of complex mixtures, respiratory drug delivery, animal model development, and metabolism in mammals. He is a member of the American Association for Aerosol Research, the Society of Toxicology, and the American Chemical Society. Dr. McDonald currently serves on the National Research Council Committee to Review the Army's Enhanced Particulate Matter Surveillance Project Report. He earned a Ph.D. in environmental chemistry and toxicology from the University of Nevada.



Dr. Gunter Oberdorster
University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry

Dr. Oberdorster is professor in the Department of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester, director of the University of Rochester Ultrafine Particle Center, principal investigator on a multidisciplinary research initiative in nanotoxicology, and head of the Pulmonary Core of a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences center grant. His research focuses on the effects and underlying mechanisms of lung injury induced by inhaled nonfibrous and fibrous particles, including extrapolation modeling and risk assessment. His studies of ultrafine particles influenced the field of inhalation toxicology, raising awareness of the unique biokinetics and toxic potential of nanoscale particles. He has served on many national and international committees and is a recipient of several scientific awards. He is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Aerosol Medicine, Particle and Fibre Toxicology, Nanotoxicology, and the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health and is associate editor of Inhalation Toxicology and Environmental Health Perspectives. Dr. Oberdorster has served on several NRC committees, including the Committee for Review of the Federal Strategy to Address Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Needs for Engineered Nanoscale Materials and the Committee on Research Priorities for Airborne Particulate Matter. He earned his D.V.M. and Ph.D. (in pharmacology) from the University of Giessen, Germany.



Dr. Dorothy E. Patton
Environmental Protection Agency [Retired]

Dr. Patton has over 24 years experience with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (1976-2000). She began her EPA career working as an attorney in EPA’s Office of General Council on air, pesticide, and toxic substance issues. She later moved on to positions as Director of the Office of Science Policy, Executive Director of the EPA Science Policy Council, and Executive Director of the EPA Risk Assessment Forum. In these roles she was responsible for developing and implementing risk assessment policies and practices, environmental research planning and prioritization, and long-range strategic planning. After retiring from EPA in 2000, Dr. Patton taught a course in risk assessment at the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute and worked as a consultant with the Risk Sciences Institute within the International Life Sciences Institute. Dr. Patton was formerly a member of the NRC Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology. She has also been a member of several NRC committees, including Human Biomonitoring for Environmental Toxicants, Metrics for Global Change Research, EPA Assessment Factors for Data Quality, Review of NASA's Earth Science Applications Program Strategic Plan, and the NRC Committee on Improving Risk Analysis Approaches Used by the United States EPA. She is currently a member of the IOM Committee on Decision-Making Under Uncertainty. Dr. Patton received a Ph.D. in Developmental Biology from the University of Chicago and a J.D. from the Columbia University School of Law.



Dr. William M. Valentine
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine 

Dr. Valentine is associate professor of pathology and researcher at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. His research specializes in the mechanisms of environmental neurotoxicants and neurodegenerative disease. Dr. Valentine’s current research includes delineating the molecular mechanisms of chemical agents that produce peripheral neuropathies. He is also investigating the role of copper dysregulation in neurodegenerative disease. Dr. Valentine has served on several NRC and IOM committees, including the Committee on Gulf War and Health: Literature Review of Selected Environmental Agents, Pollutants, and Synthetic Chemical Compounds, the Committee on Gulf War and Health: Review of the Literature on Pesticides and Solvents: Solvent Panel, and the Subcommittee on Jet Propulsion Fuel 8. Dr. Valentine earned his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Chicago, IL, and his D.V.M. from the University of Illinois, Champaign, IL.



Dr. Bailus Walker, Jr.
Howard University 

Bailus Walker (IOM) is a professor of environmental and occupational medicine and toxicology at Howard University College of Medicine. His research interests include lead toxicity and environmental carcinogenesis. Dr. Walker has served as commissioner of public health for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; chairman of the Massachusetts Public Health Council; and state director of public health for Michigan. He is past president of the American Public Health Association, and a distinguished fellow of both the Royal Society of Health and the American College of Epidemiology. Dr. Walker is currently a senior science advisor for environmental health to the National Library of Medicine and he is a member of the IOM. He has also served on several NRC committees, most recently the Committee on Improving Risk Analysis Approaches Used by the U.S. EPA; the Committee on Mine Placement of Coal Combustion Wastes; and the Committee on Toxicology. He is currently a member of the NRC’s Committee for the Review of the Army’s Enhanced Particulate Matter Surveillance Project Report. Dr. Walker received a PhD in occupational and environmental medicine from the University of Minnesota.

Click here to read more about the chemical exposures in Iraq.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

More Problems Revealed With "Burn Pits"


New facts are emerging from several law suits that have been filed claiming that military contractors are responsible for the hazardous use of burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. The litigation alleges that the contractors negligently utilized burn pits to improperly dispose of  toxic waste causing military personnel and civilian contractors to be exposed and suffer illness. 

It is alleged that the military contractors negligently burned  lithium batteries, petroleum, asbestos, trucks, cars, paint, plastic, Styrofoam, and medical waste including human limbs. Until recently, the US Department of Dense was unresponsive to inquiries concerning the hazards.


An Air Force memo in 2006 revealed that senior officials were warned of the hazards. A recent investigative report reveals "...that lithium batteries, petroleum, asbestos, trucks, cars, paint, plastic, Styrofoam, medical waste including human limbs" were being burned in the pits." "“It is amazing that the burn pit has been able to operate without restrictions over the past few years without significant engineering controls being put in place.” 

Click here to read more about the chemical exposures in Iraq.