Soldiers and airmen in Vermont who deployed to areas with open-air burn pits should document their exposures and report health concerns in a national registry.
In a video posted to YouTube and Facebook on Wednesday, Brig. Gen. Greg Knight, the state’s top military official, said service members who deployed to areas of the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia may have been exposed to toxins from burn pits.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says research on exposure to burn pits — a common way to get rid of waste at military sites — does not show evidence it causes long-term health problems. The VA has been studying how the toxins in the smoke affect the skin and eyes, the respiratory and cardiovascular systems and internal organs.
In June, Gov. Phil Scott signed S. 111, which requires state health officials and guard leadership to keep Vermont vets informed about potential health risks and where to go for diagnosis and treatment. The law was spurred by the widow of Brigadier General Michael Heston, who died in Nov. 2018 from a rare form of pancreatic cancer that she says was caused by burn pit exposure.
In the video, Knight urges Vermont guard members to find out whether they are eligible to enroll in the registry, where they will be asked to provide data on their deployment and any subsequent health problems.
“The Vermont national guard has several thousand veterans, who have deployed to Southwest Asia, both air and army, who were exposed to the toxins released from the use of open-air burn pits,” said Knight. “As of late last year, our enrollment only numbered in the hundreds. I need your help in correcting this.”