If you were a civilian contractor working on a U.S. military base in Iraq, you may have been exposed to burn pits. The chemicals released by these burn pits are known to cause several short-term and long-term health problems. Whether you develop lung disease, cancer, or other major illnesses, a burn pit may be to blame.
At Grossman Attorneys at Law, we help civilian contractors make injury claims with the government under the Defense Base Act. Our goal is to fight for the compensation you deserve after sustaining an injury overseas.
What Are Iraq Burn Pits?
During Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S. military and its contractors used large areas of land for open-air combustion of waste.
Located at many major bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, these burn pits spanned upwards of ten acres. Service members and civilian contractors exposed to the toxic smoke of these burning pits in Iraq may have long-lasting health conditions as a result.
Items Put into the Burn Pits
A burn pit in Iraq usually contained any trash or waste from nearby U.S. bases. Since these bases hosted numerous service members and their equipment, there were many different types of trash thrown into the pits, including:
- Human or medical waste,
- Toxic chemicals,
- Munitions, and
While this isn’t an exhaustive list, these are the main materials discarded into the burn pits. Once burned, these materials released large billows of smoke that traveled for miles. That means exposure to these toxic fumes isn’t just limited to those in the immediate vicinity of the burn pit.
Toxic Substances Released into the Air
The Department of Defense took samples of the air around a burn pit at Joint Base Balad in Iraq. These samples revealed several toxic substances, such as:
- Volatile organic compounds—these are chemical compounds that come from things like paint, aerosol sprays, disinfectants, and solvents.
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons—these substances occur naturally when burning things like coal, oil, wood, or gas. When inhaled or absorbed through the skin, some PAHs cause blood abnormalities, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.
- Particulate matter—this refers to several different particles that may be inhaled near a burn pit. Consistent exposure usually leads to lung and heart conditions.
- Toxic organic halogenated dioxins and furans—these chemicals are known to cause extensive damage to reproductive organs and the immune system. The most toxic dioxin used in Agent Orange was also found in burn pit samples.
From this information, it’s clear that exposure to these burn pits is dangerous, even for a short amount of time. That’s why it’s important to consider filing a claim under the Defense Base Act if you have resulting health problems from exposure to burn pit emissions.
Common Iraq Burn Pit Symptoms
The hazardous materials disposed of in burn pits create an incredible danger to those who inhale the fumes. Many of these materials emit carcinogens and other substances that may cause any of the following:
- Autoimmune disease,
- Nerve issues,
- Stroke, and
- Heart disease.
Even if you have a condition different from those listed above, we highly recommend you contact one of our attorneys. There are many illnesses related to burn pit exposure that might make you eligible for a claim under the Defense Base Act.
The Connection Between the Burn Pits in Iraq and Respiratory Illness
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of burn pit exposure is lung damage. Being near an active burn pit causes some immediate symptoms, such as itchy throat, coughing, and difficulty breathing. With consistent exposure, these issues worsen over time, especially for those with asthma or other lung diseases.
While the short-term symptoms may subside after leaving the vicinity of the burn pit, toxins often linger in your lungs for much longer.
According to a report released by the Institute of Medicine in 2011, individuals exposed to Iraq burn pits had lasting issues with lung function. However, there haven’t been enough studies to determine the exact consequences of exposure.
What Options Do I Have as a Civilian Contractor?
If you had exposure to a burn pit as a civilian contractor, you might be able to make a claim with the U.S. government under the Defense Base Act. Established in 1941, this law Act allows civilian employees assisting U.S. operations overseas to receive compensation for injuries. To be eligible for coverage, you must be:
- A worker on a military base or reservation outside of the country,
- A public worker funded by the U.S. government to work outside of the country, or
- A public worker with a military contract from a foreign government conducting work deemed necessary by the U.S. for security.
Whether you live in the U.S. or outside of the country, our Defense Base Act attorneys can help manage your claim and pursue the compensation you need.
Why You Should Consider Hiring a Lawyer If You Have Iraq Burn Pit Symptoms
Filing a claim through the Defense Base Act, even for burn pit-related illnesses, is incredibly complex. Not only are these cases time-sensitive, but they require a certain level of legal knowledge to execute.
In fact, the federal government frequently rejects many strong applications. For this reason, it’s important to consult an attorney that has experience handling DBA claims.
Injured from Burn Pit Exposure? We’ll Fight with You
No matter what type of Iraq burn pit symptoms you have, we’ve got your back. At Grossman Attorneys at Law, we have managed thousands of cases filed under the Defense Base Act.
Whether you served as a contractor or subcontractor overseas, we have the resources necessary to pursue the compensation you need to recover. We are available 24/7 to answer any questions you have and provide one-on-one service.