February 17, 2011
Burn Pit Masks: Military to protect troops from burn pits
The military has agreed to identify ways to protect deployed service members from potentially toxic burn pit fumes and smoke. The decision was revealed in correspondence between Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York and Bill Nelson of Florida to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen.
In January, the Senators wrote Gates about burn pit safety urging him to support measures that would require all troops working near burn pits to wear protective respirator masks. In a letter written on Feb. 7, 2011, Mullen agreed to their request. He said, "I share your concern for the welfare of our deployed personnel and assure you that significant progress has been made to minimize burn pit exposure risks such as those described in your letter." Mullen's letter states that within 60 days the Department of Defense will identify ways to promote greater access and use of protective equipment.
Mullen went on to write that all open air burn pits in Iraq were closed by the end of 2010 and approximately 200 solid waste incinerators are in various stages of installation and operation throughout Afghanistan.