Jon Stewart Advocates for Bill to Help Veterans Exposed to Toxic Burn Pits Overseas
One year after finding success helping people with 9/11-related illnesses get the healthcare benefits they desperately needed, Jon Stewart is lacing up his advocacy boots once again, this time for the benefit of soldiers exposed to toxic burn pits while serving overseas.
Stewart, 57, is pushing to get a bill passed in Congress that would help veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and developed long-term illnesses due to exposure to more than 250 pits used to dispose of trash, according to The New York Times.
The legislation, which would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide health and disability services to the tens of thousands of veterans who were exposed, is sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Raul Ruiz, and is being introduced on Tuesday, the Times and Fox News reported.
“The ironic thing is that the first responders suffered health effects due to a terror attack,” Stewart told the Times. “Now, these veterans are suffering health effects due to the negligence of their own country.”
The pits were reportedly used to dispose of refuge, and the disposed materials were ignited with jet fuel. Many veterans with lung diseases, cancers and respiratory illnesses believe that their health woes may have come from exposure to the pits, according to the Times.
The Department of Veterans Affairs said on its website that its research shows no evidence of long-term health problems from exposure to the burn pits.
Waste products in the burn pits included chemicals, paint, medical and human waste, metal and aluminum cans, munitions and other unexploded ordnance, petroleum and lubricant products, plastics, rubber, wood and discarded food, the department said.
“I’m not a doctor, I’m not a scientist. But I’m also not an idiot,” Stewart told Fox News. “If you live next to a toxic smoke plume filled with cancer-causing elements, and you’re breathing it in day in and day out, it’s going to make you sick.”
The outlet reported that if passed, the bill will list exposure to the pits as a presumptive condition for any service member who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan, as well as various resulting diseases, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancers of any kind.
Sen. Gillibrand told the Times that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has “expressed support” for the bill, as he speculates that the brain cancer that killed his son Beau in 2015 may have been a result of exposure to the pits while serving in Iraq.
“The veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have been injured by the United States,” Stewart told Fox News. “We did this to ourselves. The smoke, the toxins, those pits were dug by contractors hired by the [Department of Defense.] They knew about it. Their own reporting, internal reporting, shows the air quality, shows the variety of toxins.”
The former Daily Show host previously advocated for 9/11 first responders, many of whom saw illnesses linked to the 2001 terror attacks in subsequent years.
With his support, the Victim Compensation Fund, which helped pay for their healthcare, was majorly extended last year.