Burn Pit Exposure

Dedicating your life to your country doesn’t mean that your life should be put at completely unnecessary risk, but there’s a very real chance that this is what happened to U.S. military service members, veterans and civilian contractors when open-air burn pits were maintained on or near American military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

March 15, 2016

Case Update:  New legislation to help veterans introduced

After introduction, Senate Bill S. 2679, Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act, was referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The bill would establish a center of excellence in the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment and rehabilitation of health conditions relating to exposure to burn pits.

In 2010, the case Jobes v KBR, Inc. et al alleged that prolonged exposure to burn pits’ smoke, ash and fumes caused injuries such as chronic illnesses, risk of illnesses and wrongful death. The veterans and contract workers bringing the suit claim that the contractors responsible for these open-air burn pits had a duty to warn them of the health and safety issues involved with working near the pits, but failed to do so. These lawsuits have been consolidated in In re KBR Inc. Burn Pit Litigation before the Honorable Judge Roger W. Titus in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Greenbelt Division.

This consolidation of lawsuits alleges that KBR, a government contractor, exposed American servicemembers and civilian contract workers to harmful fumes from its unauthorized use of open-air surface burning as a means to dispose of vast quantities of unsorted waste, including hazardous waste, medical waste, and human waste, at military facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Exposure to harmful fumes from these burn pits is alleged to have caused these American servicemembers and civilian contract workers to contract various serious injuries. The burn pits specifically addressed in the KBR lawsuit varied in size and location.

Alleged burn pit locations

Burn Pit Exposure Symptoms

Exposure to harmful toxins in Iraq and Afghanistan may result in diagnoses and symptoms, including:       

  • Allergy-like symptoms
  • Asthma
  • Breathing restrictions
  • Cancers (including but not limited to lung, brain, bone and skin)
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Chronic coughs
  • Constant infections
  • Cramps and severe abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Leukemia
  • Lung cancer
  • Nose bleeds
  • Pulmonary injuries
  • Restrictive Airways Disease (Bronchiolitis) 
  • Serious heart conditions
  • Severe headache
  • Skin infection
  • Sleep apnea
  • Throat infections
  • Ulcers
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Weeping lesions on extremities

*Note: this list is not inclusive of all potential symptoms or illnesses

A Brief History of Burn Pit Litigation

October 2009
President Obama signs the National Defense Authorization Act into law. This Act includes an amendment banning the improper use of burn pits, as well as requires the Department of Defense to thoroughly investigate burn pit effects on troops and explore alternative means of waste disposal.

November 2009
The Senate Democratic Policy Committee holds a hearing on contractor abuses and corruption in Iraq and Afghanistan, and discusses the health risks associated with the continued use of open-air burn pits.

September 2010
Burn pit lawsuits across the country are consolidated in In re KBR Inc. Burn Pit Litigation, and a motion by the defendants to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is denied by the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

October 2010
In response to a request by Congress, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report titled “Afghanistan and Iraq: DOD Should Improve Adherence to its Guidance on Open Pit Burning and Solid Waste Management,” specifically pointing out that standards for burn pit operations were not met in four surveyed burn pits; three of which were operated by the defense contractors in question.

March 2011
Two representatives for the Department of Defense give a joint statement to the House Armed Services Committee and the Military Personnel Subcommittee, stating that programs are being established to replace as many burn pits as possible in Afghanistan, and all burn pits servicing more than 100 people were closed in Iraq.

January 2013
A bill is signed into law to create a registry of U.S. servicemember  who become sick after working around burn pits or military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

February 2013
The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland dismisses the burn pit lawsuits consolidated in In re KBR Inc. Burn Pit Litigation.

March 2014
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacates the district court’s decision and remands In re KBR Inc. Burn Pit Litigation back to the district court for further proceedings.

January 2015
The U.S. Supreme Court turned down an interlocutory request by KBR to review its case.   KBR has argued that it can’t be held liable for wartime decisions made by the U.S. military.

July 2017
U.S. District Court Judge Roger W. Titus for the District of Maryland dismissed the burn pit lawsuits consolidated in In re KBR Inc. Burn Pit Litigation.

Burn Pit Resources

The following links may be useful to those interested in learning more about burn pits and the burn pit litigation:

These resources are not meant to serve as legal advice and are not intended to foster an attorney-client relationship. They are strictly for convenience.

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