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Congressman Ryan Costello

Representing the 6th District of Pennsylvania

Bill introduced in House of Representatives to help veterans exposed to burn pits

March 23, 2017
In The News

Three members of Congress introduced legislation Wednesday that would provide aid to veterans exposed to toxic burn pits on military bases. 

Reps. Elizabeth Esty, Ryan Costello and Betty McCollum introduced the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act, which seeks to create a VA center focused on the “diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions related to exposure to burn pits,” according to an Esty press release

Burn pits on military bases are used to incinerate toxic items such as human waste, batteries, metal containers, tires, aerosol cans, plastics and other garbage. The items are often set fire after being doused with accelerants such as jet fuel, sending toxic smoke and fumes into the air around the base. Smoke from these burn pits can end up in living areas on the base, the release says. 

“I’ve heard from veterans throughout Connecticut who are suffering – or know other service members suffering – from serious health complications that were likely caused by burn pits,” said Etsy, a Democrat from Connecticut. 

“We cannot repeat our shameful inaction after the Vietnam War, when the government failed to acknowledge the terrible toll of Agent Orange. By passing this bill, we can significantly improve the quality of the care for veterans who have been exposed to burn pits, and help them to live longer, healthier lives,” she added. 

The legislation has bipartisan support with Costello, a Pennsylvania Republican also sponsoring the bill, and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., as a cosponsor.  

“The men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting our country must be able to access care for their health needs when they return home,” Costello said. “By establishing a center of excellence within the Department of Veterans Affairs, this bill is an important step forward in providing critical services for veterans facing health issues from burn pits,” he added. 

The VA currently maintains a list of service members exposed to burn pits, according to McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat. 

“We need to provide the VA with the resources necessary to examine and research the health effects caused by burn pits,” she said. “Our veterans exposed to these airborne toxins cannot wait any longer for the care and treatment they deserve." 

Health effects associated with the burn pit exposure can include cancer, neurological and reproductive effects, respiratory toxicity and cardiovascular toxicity, according to the release.