VA orders health study on garbage fires in Iraq, Afghanistan

The VA has ordered a study into the possible health effects of the pits in response to a 2011 review from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) that raised questions about possible links to cancer, cardiac disease and respiratory problems.

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The VA study will partner with the Defense Department to evaluate veterans and current service members in support of the research.

The military uses burn pits to incinerate waste when other options are not available. There is concern that exposure to the smoke and the toxins it produces might be hazardous in short bursts and over the long term. 

Those concerns arose, according to the IOM, during a controversy over a solid-waste burn pit at Joint Base Balad in Iraq that torched up to 200 tons of waste per day in 2007.