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  • Writer's pictureSuzanne Caruso

PACT Act Silent on Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Nearly 3.6 million members of the U.S. Military have been exposed to Burn pits in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF, Afghanistan), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF, Iraq). In addition, almost half of these forces were deployed to the region more than once.


Numerous toxins and contaminants have been confirmed in these theaters of operation.


In 2021, Congress passed the Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act followed by the PACT Act in 2022 extending benefits to Veterans with Burn Pit exposure. These announcements garnered national attention to the health risks associated with Burn pits, as well as the suffering many Veterans endure as a result of their service. While the PACT Act acknowledges and addresses the numerous cancers and pulmonary airway diseases caused by Burn pit emissions, the PACT Act remains silent on well-established research that links this exposure to serious cardiovascular diseases.

Burn Pits were used in various locations during OEF and OIF to dispose of waste generated by military activities. Materials disposed of in Burn Pits include rubber, plastics, and metals from various military equipment, vehicles, and supplies, as well as human and medical waste. In addition, Particulate Matter (PM) is a mixture of tiny particles that are present in Burn Pits as well as in dust and sand particles, burning oil wells, and aircraft and automobile engine exhaust. All were present during operations OEF and OIF and when inhaled, these particles can enter the bloodstream and damage the heart and blood vessels. They can also trigger inflammation throughout the body, which can contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease.

Multiple scientific studies support that exposure to Particulate Matter (PM) can substantially increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and, a strong link has been demonstrated between PM exposure and death due to Hypertension and Ischemic Heart Disease (IHD). CAD, Heart Failure, and Stroke have also been associated with exposure to burn pits. There’s no question that Military personnel who were exposed to Burn Pit fumes and airborne particulates during OEF and OIF have a substantially higher risk for cardiovascular disease. 


Some of the cardiovascular health consequences related to Burn Pits and airborne Particulate Matter are now well established. Therefore, even though the PACT Act is silent on Cardiovascular Disease as it relates to Burn Pits and airborne particulates, Veteran Advocates should consider eligibility for benefits when cardiovascular disease is in question and the Veteran has been exposed to these noxious particulates and fumes.



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