Monday, October 25, 2010

War-zone burn pits violate laws, GAO says

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Oct 17, 2010 16:48:51 EDT

Of four U.S. bases in Iraq operating burn pits, none complies with federal regulations designed to keep service members safe, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday.

The report includes photos of hazy air near the pits, photos of prohibited hazardous materials, and a list of emitted health hazards such as carbon monoxide, dioxins, particulate matter and carcinogens.

Contracts with private companies to run the pits did not reflect emissions guidance, the contractors disobeyed orders to comply with the regulations, and incinerators were not installed for five years — in part due to contract disputes, GAO found.

The military also does not sample burn-pit emissions as required by its own regulations, the report said.

“The health impacts of burn-pit exposure on individuals are not well understood, mainly because the military does not collect required data on emissions or exposures,” it said.

Contrary to initial military claims that there are no known long-term health effects from the burn pits, GAO found that long-term health implications cannot be ruled out.

The report comes after Military Times began investigating the use of burn pits in the war zones in October 2008, leading Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., to request an investigation by GAO.


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