© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
WOSP-FM 91.5 Portsmouth is off the air. In the meantime listen online or with the WOSU mobile app.
Health, Science & Environment

Ohio State, VA study explores long-term health effects of exposure to burn pits

Senior Airman Frances Gavalis tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit at Balad Air Base, Iraq in 2008. The military destroyed uniforms, equipment and other materials in huge burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some veterans say those pits are responsible for respiratory problems they are now experiencing.
Senior Airman Julianne Showalter
/
USAF
Senior Airman Frances Gavalis tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit at Balad Air Base, Iraq in 2008. The military destroyed uniforms, equipment and other materials in huge burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some veterans say those pits are responsible for respiratory problems they are now experiencing.

During his State of the Union address, President Biden recognized the widow of central Ohio soldier Heath Robinson, whose lung cancer he attributed to exposure to burn pits during his deployment in Iraq.

Researchers at Ohio State are working with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to better understand how burn pits impact the health of service members.

Loren Wold is Associate Dean of Research Operations and Compliance at the OSU College of Medicine.

His research team exposed mice to simulated burn pit fumes for three weeks, which equates to a one to two-year deployment in humans.

The team found significant changes in lung function, as well as the onset of "severe and progressed" cardiovascular disease.

The researchers also noted late-onset development of neurocognitive changes, similar to Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

"My hope is that we're able to assist in the defining of the long-term effects so that our veterans who are experiencing exposure to burn pits, while deployed, are able to get the care that they deserve," Wold said.

The yet-to-be-published study is funded through the VA's Airborne Hazards and Burn Pits Center of Excellence.

Matthew Rand is the Morning Edition host for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.