Today, Mark Udall announced he has joined seven other senators in introducing a bipartisan amendment to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act to create a national registry of service members and veterans impacted by open air burn pits, helping identify and take better care of those affected. Co-sponsoring the amendment are senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo). The amendment is identical to the Open Burn Pit Registry Act of 2011, introduced earlier this month. Read the bill HERE.
As early as 2002, U.S. military installations in Afghanistan and Iraq began to rely on open-air burn pits to dispose of waste materials. The U.S. Department of Defense made frequent use of burn pits at a number of bases in Iraq and Afghanistan despite concerns about air pollution.
The amendment creates a similar registry to the Agent Orange Registry and the Gulf War Registry. The establishment of an open burn pit registry will help the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) determine to what extent air pollution, caused by open air burn pits, has led to medical diseases among service members. The amendment will also serve as a vehicle for improved communication and information dissemination for affected veterans.
"Our heroes' health may be seriously impacted from the use of burn pits in combat zones, and we owe it to those affected to collect all the information necessary to properly take care of them when they get home," Mark Udall said. "This registry will help create a database of those who have been exposed to burn pits and improve communication so that important health services can actually get to them."
The amendment will:
* Establish and maintain an open burn pit registry for those individuals who may have been exposed during their military service;
* Include information in this registry that the Secretary of the VA determines applicable to possible health effects of this exposure;
* Develop a public information campaign to inform individuals about the registry;
* Periodically notify members of the registry of significant developments associated with burn pit exposure;
* Require an assessment and report to Congress by an independent scientific organization.