Joe Biden claims toxic military burn pits may have been a 'significant factor' in his son's death from terminal brain cancer after serving in Iraq

  • The US military used burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan to get rid of waste using jet fuel 
  • A growing swell of research is showing links between burn pits and cancer 
  • For the first time, Joe Biden has acknowledged there could be a link between the pits and the cancer which killed his son Beau
  • A book has tracked his son's exposure to carcinogenic fumes from pits in Iraq and Kosovo 

Joe Biden has acknowledged that toxic military burn pits could have been a 'significant' factor that drove his son to an early death from terminal brain cancer.

Beau Biden, who was 46 when he died in 2015, served in Iraq at two locations which commonly burned waste in open pits, using jet fuel to speed up the process. 

Now, after years of studies suggesting links between cancer and burn pits, Beau's father Joe has made his first public comments on the matter, saying he was 'stunned' by a book which tracked his son's exposure to the carcinogenic fumes.

'[T]hat stunned me. I didn't know that,' Biden said in an interview with PBS News Hour on Wednesday. 

Making links: Joe Biden has acknowledged that toxic military burn pits could have been a 'significant' factor that drove his son to an early death from terminal brain cancer

Making links: Joe Biden has acknowledged that toxic military burn pits could have been a 'significant' factor that drove his son to an early death from terminal brain cancer

Beau Biden, who was 46 when he died in 2015, served in Iraq at two locations which commonly burned waste in open pits, using jet fuel to speed up the process. Pictured with his dad in 2009

Beau Biden, who was 46 when he died in 2015, served in Iraq at two locations which commonly burned waste in open pits, using jet fuel to speed up the process. Pictured with his dad in 2009

Burn pits were a commonly-used method to get rid of waste in Afghanistan and Iraq, torching anything from paints and tires to electronics.

While the Department of Veterans Affairs does not yet acknowledge a link between the pits and long-term health risks, an increasing number of studies - including a book which Joe Biden cites called The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America's Soldiers - are suggesting otherwise. 

The Burn Pits, by Joseph Hickman, featured an entire chapter on Beau Biden.

Beau, the former vice president's eldest son, served in Iraq from 2008 to 2009, at Camp Victory in Baghdad and the nearby Balad Air Force Base. 

A year later, he was hospitalized with what appeared to be a mini stroke. In 2013, he was hospitalized once more, and diagnosed with the most common form of brain cancer, glioblastoma - the same cancer John McCain currently has.  

Beau, pictured in February 2014, was diagnosed in 2013 with the most common form of brain cancer, glioblastoma - the same cancer John McCain currently has 

Beau, pictured in February 2014, was diagnosed in 2013 with the most common form of brain cancer, glioblastoma - the same cancer John McCain currently has 

While concrete links are thin, the burgeoning swell of evidence echoes research on 9/11-related diseases. More than 4,500 people have developed various types of cancers from exposure to jet fuel, asbestos and other pulverized materials that burned at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001. 

The book suggests Biden suspected his cancer was tied to the pits, since he was treated at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center - America's top facility for military-related illnesses or injuries.

Joe Biden fell short of drawing concrete links, saying he has not heard of 'any direct scientific evidence' pairing the two. 

But he added: 'Science has recognized there are certain carcinogens when people are exposed to them.

'Depending on the quantities and the amount in the water and the air, [they] can have a carcinogenic impact on the body.'  

TOXIC MILITARY BURN PITS LINKED TO CANCER AND HEALTH WOES IN U.S. ARMY VETERANS

Burn pits were a commonly-used method to get rid of waste in Afghanistan and Iraq, torching anything from paints and tires and electronics to human waste and medical supplies.  

These pulverized materials, as well as the chemicals used to burn them, can be toxic to humans.

The toxins can affect the eyes, respiratory system, digestive system and cardiovascular system.

The fumes are particularly damaging to people who stand close to the fumes.

But regardless of proximity, the fact that the pits were open-air meant they caused more pollution than other methods like incinerators, and affected more people. 

A US Army soldier watches water that had gone bad burn in a burn-pit at Forward Operating Base Azzizulah in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, February 4, 2013

A US Army soldier watches water that had gone bad burn in a burn-pit at Forward Operating Base Azzizulah in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, February 4, 2013

While the Department of Veterans Affairs has not found a direct link between burn pits and health woes, it has set up a registry for compensation for veterans that believe their health issues to be linked to the pits. 

Tens of thousands of former soldiers have signed up to the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, for which they must pass an eligibility questionnaire.

The chemicals generated are the same ones found in Agent Orange, a chemical that was used by the US military in Vietnam between 1961 and 1971 to kill the forests which Vietnam troops used as cover. It has since been linked to scores of deaths. 

But according to Rosie Torres, founder of Burn Pits 360, an advocacy group for sickened veterans, the burn pits have been even more damaging. 

'It's killing soldiers at a much higher rate than Agent Orange did in the Vietnam Era,' Torres told Fox News. 'Soldiers from that war were seen dying in their 50's, 60's or 70's. Now with the soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, we are seeing them die in their early 20's, 30's, and 40's.'

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