A piece of bipartisan legislation co-introduced by Sen. Bob Corker unanimously passed in the Senate Wednesday, laying the groundwork for a registry for soldiers and veterans who have been exposed to toxic fumes around open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The bill, called the Burn Pit Open Registry Act, was introduced by Corker and Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., in 2011. It will create a registry similar to the Agent Orange Registry and the Gulf War Registry, only this time for service members who may have contracted diseases and medical conditions after inhaling smoke around pits for numerous types of hazardous waste on military bases.
According to a news release, exposure to burn pits has been linked to cases of cancer, chronic bronchitis, chemical-induced asthma, brain lesions TBI, PTSD and numerous ailments. The pits were used for burning just about anything-from military equipment to medical supplies, batteries to hazardous waste, according to a CBS report.
Many of the pits were operated by contractors.
Corker said he hoped the legislation would help the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs keep track of soldiers who had been exposed and prevent similar methods from being carried out near military bases in the future.
“This registry will assist the VA in learning the effects of open-air burn pit exposure among our troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Corker said. “We have an obligation to make all veterans aware of health risks associated with their service, so they can access any related benefits.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander co-sponsored the bill.