From: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
Published February 28, 2017 11:27 AM

New report assesses VA's airborne hazards and open burn pit registry

Other Means Besides a Registry Should Be Developed to Evaluate Potential Health Effects of Military Burn Pits’ Toxic Emissions on Exposed Service Members; Data From Burn Pit Registry Could Be Used for Other Purposes, Including Alerting Health Care Providers About Participants’ Concerns

Inherent features of registries that rely on voluntary participation and self-reported information make them fundamentally unsuitable for determining whether emissions from military burn pits in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations in Southwest Asia caused health problems in service members who were exposed to them, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  While the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit (AH&OBP) Registry provides a forum for collecting and recording information on those who choose to participate, a more rigorous and appropriate approach is needed to examine the relationship between the exposures and health outcomes, such as a well-designed epidemiologic study.  A previous report by the former Institute of Medicine [now part of the National Academies] found inconclusive evidence on the health effects of exposure to military burn pits and contained advice and recommendations on how a study might be conducted.

For some time, the disposal of trash on military bases through open-air burn pits exposed service personnel deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations in Southwest Asia to airborne particulate matter and other potential health hazards, which in turn raised concerns about acute and chronic health consequences in these individuals.  In 2013, Congress gave the VA one year to create a registry that would acquire exposure and health information on service members and veterans who may have been exposed to airborne hazards during deployment — such as smoke from burn pits, oil-well fires, dust storms, or pollution.  The VA developed an ambitious program to enroll volunteer participants and created the AH&OBP Registry.  In response to a congressional mandate, the VA asked the National Academies to analyze the initial months of data collected by the registry and offer recommendations on ways to improve the instrument and the information it collects.

Read more at National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Photo credit: Senior Airman Julianne Showalter, U.S. Air Force via Wikimedia Commons

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