Senator Tom Udall Statement on Report that U.S. Military’s Burn Pits May have Broken Federal Law

U.S. Senator Tom Udall responded to a new report that the U.S. military’s use of open-air burn pits at Shindand Air Base in Afghanistan may have violated federal law. According to the report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), made public today, most of the solid waste at Shindand Air Base was disposed of for years in open burn pits rather than incinerators. Despite the potential health hazards, burn pits remained in use even after open burning was prohibited by law and despite a regulation requiring the military to notify Congress about the practice, the report found.

“I am outraged that despite evidence that burn pits were making our troops sick — and laws prohibiting their use — that our military continued to use them for years,” Udall said. “Today’s report adds to the evidence that the military’s toxic burn pits overseas exposed more veterans to potentially debilitating and in some cases fatal conditions when there were alternatives for disposal. We need to continue this investigation so we can hold the right people accountable and so we can get the facts we need to ensure our service members and veterans in New Mexico and across the country are getting the right care.”

Udall has spoken out repeatedly against the U.S. military’s unnecessary use of burn pits throughout Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands of troops and veterans have become sick after breathing toxic fumes from burn pits used to dispose of everything from Humvees to medical waste and plastics. Despite opposition from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Udall led a bipartisan effort to create a burn pit registry to help veterans get more information about treatment – and hopefully, one day, a cure. The registry was created on June 19, 2014.

“One of the veterans who is dying as a result of burn pits is my constituent, Jessey Baca from Albuquerque,” Udall continued. “Jessey and his wife Maria were tireless partners as we worked to create a burn pit registry to help service members and veterans get more information and better treatment. But we shouldn’t stop there. We owe it to Jessey and the thousands of veterans like him to ensure this never happens again.”