Review of the Institute of Medicine Report: Long-term Health Consequences of Exposure to Burn Pits in Iraq and Afghanistan
ARMY PUBLIC HEALTH COMMAND ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND MD
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A previous issue of the AMEDD Journal included an article I wrote concerning solid waste disposal in the US Central Command CENTCOM area of operations. That article described how the Department of Defense DoD conducted numerous monitoring studies at Joint Base Balad JBB, the location with the US militarys largest burn pit in theater. Screening health risk assessments, publicly released in 2008, stated that the burn pits at JBB and other US military locations in Iraq posed an acceptable health risk based on the contaminant levels measured. While sampling can be used to identify a potential concern, it does not refute every concern because it cannot address all locations and conditions at all times. I discussed the limitations of the sampling efforts, including the points that sampling identifies conditions at the time of sampling, and that burn pit sampling was intermittent while waste streams and meteorological conditions were variable. As waste streams vary, analyte concentrations would be expected to vary. The methodology does not incorporate particulate matter PM such as PM10 or PM2.5 concentrations. Particulate matter is a mixture, and does not have a toxicological value for use in the methodology. The list of analytes was not exhaustive. Screening health risk assessments indicate the general probability that a risk is present under very specific exposure conditions. This can be useful to make decisions regarding the need to take remedial actions, but is not well-suited to inform regarding an individuals health risk.
- Medicine and Medical Research
- Solid Wastes and Pollution and Control