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Publication Briefs

Study Suggests Prolonged Deployment to Military Bases with Open Burn Pits Increases Risk of Adverse Health Outcomes

During Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF:2001-2014) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF:2003-2011), the U.S. military used open burn pits on some military bases to dispose of solid, medical, and hazardous materials. In 2009, the Department of Defense (DoD) restricted materials allowed in burn pits, but burn pits were still used until other methods (i.e., incineration, recycling, landfill) were implemented. Research on the long-term health consequences of exposure to open burn pits has been limited, despite widespread concern. This retrospective cohort study sought to determine whether the duration of deployment to military bases with open burn pits was associated with an increased risk of diagnosed respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Using VA data, investigators identified 459,381 OEF/OIF Veterans who had been deployed between 2001 and 2011 – and were enrolled in VA healthcare. Investigators used DoD data to identify where Veterans had been stationed and for how long. Veterans were followed through 2020. Covariates included: demographics, BMI, smoking status, priority category for VA care, branch of service and rank, year of initial VA care, and total days of deployment.


  • Prolonged deployment to military bases with open burn pits may increase the risk of developing adverse health outcomes. For every 100 days of deployment to bases with burn pits, the adjusted odds ratios for asthma, COPD, hypertension, and ischemic stroke were elevated, but not for interstitial lung disease, myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, or hemorrhagic stroke.
  • Most of the study cohort had been assigned to bases with burn pits at some time (86%), with an overall median duration of 244 days.
  • The study population had a mean age of 32 years at entry into VA care and was predominantly male (87%) and ethnically diverse (16% Black, 11% Hispanic).


  • Healthcare for OEF/OIF Veterans should consider the potential impact of exposure to emissions from open burn pits, with implications for access to care and benefits.


  • Investigators lacked data on burn pit characteristics at each base (e.g., volume, frequency, content) that could impact the probability of exposure to specific toxicants among those serving at the base.
  • Nor did they have data to adjust each soldier’s likely exposure intensity based on their base location or job tasks.

Ms. Jiang and Dr. Trivedi are part of HSR’s Center of Innovation in Long-term Services and Supports for Vulnerable Veterans (LTSS).

Savitz D, Woskie S, Bello A, Gaither R, Gasper J, Jiang L, Rennix C, Wellenius G, and Trivedi A. Deployment to Military Bases with Open Burn Pits and Respiratory and Cardiovascular Disease. JAMA Network Open. April 25, 2024;7(4):e247629.

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What are HSR Publication Briefs?

HSR requires notification by HSR-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR published articles. Visit the HSR citations database for a complete listing of HSR articles and presentations.

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