Exposed to burn pits, Iraq veteran from Idaho pursues environmental career

Burning military waste in Iraq and Afghanistan sparked Iraq veteran Jacob Odekirkis’ interest in a career in environmental contamination.

Odekirk, 24, was deployed to Iraq in 2007 and 2009 for a total of 14 months. During his second deployment, he took independent study courses through the University of Idaho to get a jump on his degree.

He had a growing interest in the burn pits he saw and began wondering about prolonged exposure for troops who also are coping with other health stresses. Poisonous pollutants drifting from the pits are suspected of causing serious health problems for returning soldiers.

“We’re talking about a lot of plastic, we’re talking about medical waste – quite a few bad things,” the Marine Corps combat veteran said.

Read more in the Spokesman-Review about Odekirk, who graduated this month from the University of Idaho at Coeur d’Alene with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and is enrolled in the university’s new professional science master’s degree program.

The Army Times reports that a final package of veterans’ legislation working its way through the 112th Congress orders the creation of a registry of veterans who may have been exposed during military service to toxic fumes and airborne chemicals from open-air burn pits.

Read more in the Army Times about S 3202, which also requires two independent studies of the possible ill health effects of being near the open fires.

A past American Homecomings post about military burn pits and health issues:

VA: Burn pit registry sought by veterans not needed

 

 

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