Follow up on the Balad Burn Pit

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The article on the sick government-generated pollution at Balad AB brought in some interesting email. Here is the intensely personal story from a young man who was assigned there. He writes, “I was stationed in Balad for just over 6 months. I was downwind from the burn pit.But I wasn’t really downwind as much as I was directly in the plume for a majority of my time spent there. The pit was about half a mile away and daily the black smoke would blow across our cargo grid yard. I spent all day working in the smoke. Some days, the smoke would cause some of us to gag and throw up. I found out later, from the Air Force Times, that this could have been the side effect from breathing Arsenic.

I have been home for almost a year now. My lungs have been severely damaged. I was just diagnosed with asthma. Funny thing is, Toluene was also detected in the smoke. This causes asthma symptoms, severe lung damage and bronchial constriction.

My mile and a half run time before Balad was around 10 and a half minutes. When I returned it had jumped to 13:59 on account of my inability to breathe. A week later I found myself visiting the emergency room for shortness of breath.

Most of the chemicals listed by the Air Force times cause damage to major organs and central nervous system. This list was published in the hard copy of the Air Force Times. The list and their side effects which the Air Force Times credited to the EPA is as follows:

Acetaldehyde: Irritant and probable carcinogen

Acrolien: Severe pulmonary irritant

Arsenic: Carcinogen and potent poison; low levels can cause nausea and vomiting, decreased blood cell production, abnormal heart rhythm, numbing in hands and feet.

Benzene: In combination with other chemicals, can cause decreased lung function, coughing, nausea, chest pain and pulmonary congestion.

Carbon Monoxide: Headaches Dizziness, Death.

Dichloroflouromethane: Coughing, headache, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, confusion; repeat exposure may cause irregular heartbeat.

Ethylbenzene: Drowsiness, fatigue, headache, respiratory infection;
damage to kidney, liver and central nervous system.

Formaldehyde: Watery eyes, burning skin and lungs, wheezing and coughing, skin rash, may cause cancer.

Hydrocarbons: Harmful effects to skin, body fluids and ability to fight disease from burning wood and paper.

Hydrogen Cyanide: Rash itching and nose irritation; long-term exposure can lead to thyroid problems, including goiters.

Hydrogen Fluoride: Severe respiratory damage, ocular irritation and burns, cardiac or respiratory failure.

Phosgene: Severe respiratory effects, emphysema, ocular irritation, skin burns.

Sulfur Dioxide: Respiratory symptoms and disease, trouble breathing and premature death.

Sulfuric Acid: Eye, skin and lung irritant; may cause pulmonary edema, bronchitis, emphysema, conjunctivitis, stomatitis, trachea-bronchitis and skin problems.

Toluene: Decreased lung function, asthma like symptoms of wheezing and bronchial constriction.

Trichloroethane: Liver nervous system and circulatory damage

Xylene: Disturbances of cognitive abilities, balance and coordination; damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys.

A lot of the side effects from the chemicals explain my current condition. However, I was diagnosed with asthma and will most likely be sent to Med Board, kicked out, receive no disability, and have the threat of cancer with the bonus of reduced physical ability for the rest of my life. I risked my life. I dodged mortars and rockets. Lived in fear of bombs and UXOs all the while breaking World Records in the movement of cargo. I took part in one of the most basic functions of deployments and supply. And in the end my body inevitably suffered harm. Harm not from the enemy, but from a precision strike of friendly fire straight to major organs in my body.

And to add insult to injury, the DoD and the Air Force currently maintain that no health effects have occurred from these burn pits and they never will. Yeah right. Breathing Burning plastic, body parts, metal, chemicals, and jet fuel is a boost to a persons health.”

4:57 pm on November 2, 2008
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