Today, the House Armed Services Committee agreed to an amendment offered by Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter that would expand the list of prohibited waste in open-air burn pits to include toxic material such as munitions, asbestos, tires, mercury, batteries, aerosol cans, and other waste. The amendment is now part of the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act.
Speaking to members of the House Armed Services Committee, Shea-Porter said, "For eight long years, the Department of Defense continued the burning of noxious and toxic wastes that endangered the health of all personnel stationed at our bases in Afghanistan and Iraq."
"Massive quantities of these substances were burned: tires; batteries; treated wood; plastics; munitions and explosives; compressed gas cylinders; fuel containers; aerosol cans, polychlorinated biphenyls; asbestos; mercury; foam tent material; petroleum, oils, and lubricants (except for fuel for initial combustion) No one here would allow our families to be exposed to such dangerous materials and poisons on a daily basis. So why would we allow our troops and other base personnel to be exposed? They too deserve our support and protection."
America's major veterans service organizations to endorse Shea-Porter's amendment include: Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), American Legion, National Guard Association of the US (NGAUS), and Disabled American Veterans. The amendment passed the committee with bipartisan support.
Shea-Porter has a long history of working to raise awareness about the potential long-term health impacts of exposure to burn pits and to reduce the exposure of our service members to their potentially toxic emissions.
This new amendment builds on a provision she successfully added to the FY10 National Defense Authorization Act (now law) that prohibits the disposal of hazardous and medical wastes in open-air burn pits in war zones, and to prohibit, as policy, the open-air burning of such waste (unless the Secretary of Defense certified that there was no other option). This amendment codifies in law the list of toxic wastes prohibited.
Shea-Porter has also introduced bills to mandate the establishment of a burn pit registry. In April of this year, she sent a letter to Eric Shinseki, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, expressing her concern over allegations that the VA is concealing data regarding the adverse health effects experienced by troops exposed to burn pits.