Rep. Wenstrup, Rep. Ruiz Launch Bipartisan Congressional Burn Pits Caucus to Raise Awareness and Find Solutions
Washington, May 1, 2018 | Ann Tumolo (202-225-3164)
WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Representative Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA) and Representative Brad Wenstrup, D.P.M. (R-OH) announced the creation of a bipartisan Congressional Burn Pits Caucus. The Caucus will serve as an organizational unit for Members of Congress to increase awareness about burn pits, provide information about the potential health effects of exposure to burn pits, and to advocate for solutions to protect the health of service members and veterans. The Caucus currently has 21 bipartisan members, 10 Democrats and 11 Republicans.
“Having served in Iraq, I understand that in addition to the immediate dangers of war, there are costs of service that may not become clear until years later. That’s the concern with burn pits, and their potential to cause disease years after exposure. The effects of burn pits, which were once a daily ritual in combat zones, have become a serious health concern to the servicemen and women who were exposed to them during their deployments.
I am committed to promoting efforts to determine the health impacts of burn pits, and what can be done to assist those exposed,” said Congressman Brad Wenstrup, Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Health Subcommittee.
“While serving our country, many of our brave men and woman were exposed to large plumes of black smoke and cancer-causing toxins from the burning of waste, chemicals, and plastics in burn pits,” said Dr. Ruiz. “Now, veterans from across the country, who have no other risk factors, are developing terminal cancer, leaving their families to wonder why. I am honored to launch the Congressional Burn Pits Caucus to help get our veterans and their families the answers they deserve and the care they need.”
During the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, burn pits were used to dispose of waste and garbage generated on American military bases. At their peak, burn pits numbered 22 in Iraq and 251 in Afghanistan.
Burn pits released an array of pollutants into the air, including particulate matter and known carcinogens. Within months or years after returning from deployment, some soldiers exposed to the burn pits, and with no other known risk factors, have developed rare pulmonary issues, insomnia, and cancer. The Government Accountability Office reported in 2016 that “The effects of exposing individuals to burn pit emissions are not well understood, and DOD has not fully assessed these health risks.”
The extent to which burn pits are still being used, and whether service members who were exposed are at higher risk of developing cancer or other pulmonary complications is still being determined.
Co-Chair Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36)
Co-Chair Brad R. Wenstrup (OH-02)
Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15)
Tim Walz (MN-01)
Ruben Gallego (AZ-07)
Chellie Pingree (ME-01)
Betty McCollum (MN-02)
Dennis Heck (WA-10)
Joaquin Castro (TX-20)
Darren Soto (FL-09)
Jamie Raskin (MD-08)
Ryan Costello (PA-06)
Don Young (AK-01)
Glenn Thompson (PA-05)
Ileana Ros-Lethninen (FL-27)
Steve Pearce (NM-02)
Peter King (NY-02)
Jackie Walorski (IN-02)
Dan Donovan (NY-27)
Mike Coffman (CO-06)
Glenn 'GT' Thompson (PA-05)