Smoke produced by the burn may spread a variety of pollutants through the air that blows into working and living areas.
These toxins can include dioxin, particulate matter, hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, hexachlorobenzene and ash.
The makeup of the smoke depends on what is being burned, which is not consistent from one burn pit to another, or from one time period to another at the same burn pit.
Health effects depend on a number of factors such as the kind of waste being burned, individual susceptibility, duration of exposure, air flow patterns and closeness to the pit.
You may be at greater risk if you burned waste at the pit compared to those who were only in the vicinity of the smoke.
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Exposure to toxins may affect the skin, eyes, respiration, kidneys, liver, nervous system, cardiovascular system, reproductive system, peripheral nervous system and gastrointestinal tract.
At this time, research has not shown long-term adverse health effects from exposure to the burn pits. The VA takes this issue seriously and is sponsoring several studies on possible health effects.
Most of the irritation related to solid waste burning exposure is temporary and resolves once the exposure is gone. These include:
- Eye irritation and burning
- Coughing and throat irritation
- Breathing difficulties
- Skin itching and rashes
Types of Waste Burned
Waste products in burn pits include, but are not limited to:
- Medical and human waste
- Metal/aluminum cans
- Munitions and other unexploded ordnance
- Petroleum and lubricant products
- Plastics and Styrofoam
- Discarded food