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Legislation would create a center of excellence within the VA to better understand the health effects associated with burn pits and
treat veterans who become sick after exposure

Sen. Thom Tillis

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) applauded Senate passage of their bipartisan legislation that would create a center of excellence within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to better understand the health effects associated with burn pits and treat veterans who become sick after exposure.

“We have an obligation to care for the brave men and women in uniform who were exposed to harmful substances from toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Senator Tillis. “This legislation begins the process of fulfilling that obligation so we can better understand the health effects associated with exposure to burn pits and then provide the needed resources to our veterans. I’m proud this legislation passed the Senate, and I look forward to working with Senator Klobuchar and our colleagues to get it signed into law soon.”

“After the Vietnam War, it took the U.S. government years to recognize that there was a link between Agent Orange and its devastating health effects on our soldiers. With an increasing number of servicemembers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan citing illnesses, we can’t make that same tragic mistake again by failing to identify the devastating health effects associated with burn pits,” said Senator Klobuchar. “This legislation ‎will make sure we have the staff and resources to treat the health problems of our veterans exposed to burn pits. We need to do right by our veterans and ensure they receive the care and support they need when they come home.”

The burning of waste on military bases exposed many servicemembers to a variety of potentially harmful substances. Plastic, aerosol cans, electronic equipment, human waste, tires, and batteries were thrown into open pits, often doused with jet fuel, and set on fire. As a result, many deployed soldiers were exposed to smoke from these open-air burn pits. Health effects from exposure to chemicals found in burn pits may include cancer, neurological effects, reproductive effects, respiratory toxicity, and cardiovascular toxicity. Troops who have worked in these areas are subject to higher rates of asthma, emphysema, and rare lung disorders.

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