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US Military Burn Pits in Afghanistan May Endanger Health

U.S. federal investigators say a military camp in Afghanistan's desolate south continues to use open-air burn pits to dispose of waste, despite the installation of four incinerators at a cost of $11.5 million.

John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said Thursday the burn pits are potentially endangering the the health of the 13,500 people who work at Camp Leatherneck, a major U.S. military base in Helmand province.

Sopko wrote a letter to two top U.S. generals that the toxic smoke from burning solid waste each day increases the long-term health risks for camp personnel, "including reduced lung function and exacerbated chronic illnesses, ranging from asthma to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease."

He said the pits would not have to be used if the base used its incinerators.

Feature Story

Robert L. Thomas Jr. (C),  Commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet talks with Chinese general Yuan Yubo (L) at a port in Qingdao, during the U.S. Seventh Fleet Flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) visit to China, Shandong province, August 5, 2014.

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