By Spencer Ackerman: For More Info, Go Here…
The VA has a database of veterans who breathed in toxic fumes in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it’s not warning registrants of the particular threat COVID-19 poses to them.
When she contracted the novel coronavirus, Elana Duffy remembered the acrid smoke she breathed in from her Army tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, where jet fuel burned everything from broken furniture to human feces in toxic pits.
“I actually was saying prior to getting [the virus], I wonder if I would get it because I feel like my lungs don’t work the same way everyone else’s do,” Duffy said.
That’s because of the U.S. military’s tendency in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars to incinerate the immense detritus of war. Deployed servicemembers were frequently exposed on their bases to rancid fumes. At the burn pit near the entry control point of the massive Balad airbase in Iraq, Duffy said, “you’d sit there an hour sometimes waiting to be let in and out, and they’re burning everything from tires to medical waste.”
The military hasn’t formally admitted that the burn pits jeopardized troops’ health, much as it took the Defense Department decades to acknowledge the damage the chemical Agent Orange inflicted on Vietnam veterans. But leaked Army documents from 2011 warned of the pits’ “long term health risk.” Servicemembers were likely to experience “reduced lung function or exacerbated chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, atherosclerosis, or other cardiopulmonary diseases. It’s the sort of respiratory damage that might turn a case of coronavirus severe or deadly—and a specific way that the war on terror left people vulnerable to the pandemic.