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Bishop: Study effects of toxic 'burn pits'

Rep. Tim Bishop has been appointed to a

Rep. Tim Bishop has been appointed to a body that makes recommendations for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. (May 31, 2013) Credit: Randee Daddona

Further study is needed to determine how many U.S. military veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are suffering from respiratory and other ailments from exposure to toxic, open-air "burn pits," Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said Thursday as he introduced a bill to create three academic centers to carry out that work.

The "Helping Veterans Exposed to Toxic Chemicals Act" would create "centers for excellence" to conduct the studies under the administration of the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments. Under the bill, the budget would be $30 million a year for five years, Bishop said at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol.

Stony Brook University Hospital, which already is studying effects of the burn pits, would be a likely contender in the competitive process for awarding the centers, Bishop said. Other possible centers include National Jewish Health in Denver and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.

The centers would use the framework of the current centers for traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.

Since 2007, legislation and concerns about toxic effects have curbed the military's use of burn pits, which were open-air fires that the military used to incinerate waste such as tires, munitions, medical waste and other hazardous materials. But the effects on service members and other who breathed in the fumes and dust have lingered, affecting thousands, according to Bishop.

The bill has one Republican co-sponsor, Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Bishop said, adding he hopes to talk with the Republican House leadership on moving the legislation forward.

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