Bill to address veterans' exposure to toxic burn pits passes Senate

Sen. Klobuchar says it will help study the effects and treat veterans

Sloane Martin
June 28, 2018 - 6:17 am

© Jack Gruber-USA TODAY

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The bill to address military veterans' exposure to toxic burn pits has passed the Senate.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar says the legislation she's spearheaded is part of a larger funding bill and she's confident it will pass the House and the president will sign it.

In the last three decades, burn pits were how military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan burned off waste. However, it unknowingly exposed service members to potentially harmful substances. Plastic, aerosol cans, human waste and other objects were doused with jet fuel and set on fire. Klobuchar's office says the health effects from open-air exposure may include cancer, as well as neurological, reproductive and respiratory problems, which is why she says more research should be done and support provided. 

The bill would create a "center of excellence" within the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"The center's mission would be to better understand the health effects associated with burn pits and, most importantly, find the best ways to treat our veterans," she said in September.

Klobuchar compared the growing realization of the dangers of burn pits to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. In that case, she said, it took the U.S. government too long to address health concerns and she wants to make sure the same "tragic mistake" doesn't happen again.

Amie Muller, a Woodbury mother of three who served two tours in Iraq in 2005 and 2007, died from pancreatic cancer at age 36 in February 2017. It's believed she became ill from open-air exposure to the chemicals emitted from the burn pits while serving in the Middle East.

Her widow, Brian, spoke in September about how her death has impacted the family.

"Every day I have to wake up," he said, "and I have to find a way to spread joy in my kids' lives and try to be happy. We had a lot of plans together, a lot of dreams, a lot of hopes, but she would be pretty proud of what's going on."

Brian Muller created a foundation in Amie's memory to help military families affected by pancreatic cancer.