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Burn Pits: The "Agent Orange" of the Iraq War

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"DIOXINS" - What are they?
  • "Dioxin" is a general name for a large chain of chemical compounds with similar structures made up of Carbon, Oxygen, Hydrogen and Chlorine atoms that resemble white-crystalline needles.
  • The number of CHLORINE atoms and their positions is what determines the toxicity of different dioxins.
    • The most toxic being "2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin" also known as TCDD - which holds an 8-year half-life within the human body.
  • Dioxins are highly toxic, cancer-causing agents that cause reproductive and development issues, interferes with hormone production, impairs immune function and neurological functioning.
  • Burning certain metal products can release dioxins into the air, especially metals containing copper, chlorophenols, herbicides and plastics (Dioxins were the contaminant used in Vietnams' Agent Orange herbicide).
  • "CDD" - Chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and "CDF" - Chlorinated dibenzofurans are not created intentionally or naturally, formation of those occurs as a result of human activity such as burning trash (epa.gov).



What SYMPTOMS/illnesses are common after Dioxin exposure?

  • "Chloracne" - a disfiguring form of painful acne that appears as blackheads/cysts/pustules that are associated with exposures to chlorinated dioxins and dibenzofurans.
    • The lesions are commonly found on the face, cheeks, behind the ears, armpits and groin area and usually appears weeks to months after exposures.
    • Chloracnegens are "fat-solube" meaning they remain in the body tissues for long periods following exposures.
    • The chloracne activates the "immune cascade" and triggers an inflammatory response related to the persistent toxin in the body; the toxin activates a series of receptors promoting macrophage and neutrophil release which causes the visual skin response and painful stimuli. 
    • Treatment(s) begin with removing the veteran away from the causing agent and source, afterwards treatment is focused on symptom-management. Chloracne is highly resistent to any type of medications and antibiotics and a cure does not currently exist.
  • Other conditions observed include: developmental delays in children, including lack of enamel production, central and peripheral nervous system nephropathy, thyroid disorders, immune system suppression, diabetes and endometriosis.




How can you be EXPOSED to Dioxins?

  • Industrial origins, a byproduct of burning rubbish, Iron and Steel production, chemical industries.
  • Burning CHLORINE-based materials such as: Plastics, treated woods, pesticides, automotive parts, bleached paper, fuels and medical wastes.
  • Exposure can occur if the human body comes in contact with ashes, gases and smoke, whether inhaled or passively ingested.
  • The EPA recommends items containing dioxins and contaminated materials undergo proper incineration and highly recommends against utilizing open-air burn pits as dioxins even in small doses have proven to be highly poisonous.
    • EPA states the method in controlling exposures to Dioxins is to require incineration at high temperatures, a minimum of 850°C and 1000°C for larger materials.
    • "Smoldering" occurs with any temperature less than approximately 600°C - which releases lethal, semi-formed dioxins into the air.





Dioxins in Animal STUDIES:

  • Studies on large rodents showed ALL ORGANS were affected by high dioxin doses, symptoms showing wasting, anorexia and after large doses death occurred within 1-6 weeks. 
    • Guinea Pig Lethal Dose (1 µg/kg)
    • Hamster Lethal Dose (1,000 µg/kg)
  • Also noted was various overgrowth and atrophic (wasting) responses in different organs.
    • Thymus atrophy common (Lymphoid organ that produces immune T-Cells)
    • Severe Liver toxicity and overgrowth
  • However, developmental and cancerous affects are only seen in the human population; ex. cleft palate, hydronephrosis, liver cancers, myelomas, leukemias and breast cancers.