U.S. Army Burn Pit Victim Dies after Battle with Leukemia

Monday, March 22, 2010
Danielle Nienajadlo

More than 500 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have reported illnesses that they blame on the open-pit burning of toxic waste by the military and defense contractors. The numbers were compiled by Disabled American Veterans, a national nonprofit supporting former soldiers, that received the reports over a 17-month period.

The military and contractors like former Halliburton subsidiary KBR have dumped “hundreds of tons of refuse into giant open-air trenches, doused the piles with fuel, and left them to burn,” according to Mother Jones. “The trash includes plastic, metal, asbestos, batteries, tires, unexploded ordnance, medical waste, even entire trucks.”
One such victim was 31-year-old Staff Sergeant Danielle Nienajadlo, who died on Saturday, March 20. Nienajadlo deployed to Iraq in excellent shape, but became terribly ill in just a matter of weeks after breathing fumes from a pit at Balad Air Base. She began experiencing prolonged headaches, bruises all over her body, an open sore on her back that wouldn’t heal, vomiting and weight loss. After being sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Nienajadlo was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. She died at the University of Washington cancer center.
Veterans groups are calling for the Department of Veterans Affairs to take cases like Nienajadlo’s seriously and not delay as it did with soldiers returning home from Vietnam. “We don’t want another Agent Orange,” says John Wilson, assistant national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans. “Silence does not do any good.”
Multiple class-action lawsuits have been filed by veterans against Halliburton and KBR over their open-pit burning of garbage in Iraq and Afghanistan.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
“They Helped Kill My Daughter” (by Lindsay Wiedman, Travelling Soldier)
Another Gulf War Syndrome? (by Beth Hawkins, Mother Jones)


Gary Galloway 8 years ago
My stepson Chris Griffith worked on communication aircraft in Afghanistan. Lived in a tent close to burning pit. Died Jan 14,2016 aml leukemia. Nine months of medical agony and stem cell transplant for what. Speak up everyone lets stop this , their killing the good guys. The real friendly fire.
Sortil 8 years ago
My husband was also just diagnosed with AML and worked with the burn pits in afganistan.
Samantha 9 years ago
That is my aunt..i miss her very much...
Josepj 11 years ago
The contractors who worked over there are not allowed to sue the company they worked for but get this, there families can. So if your loved one work over there on these same bases as the military get moving on this action.
Burn Pit Voices 12 years ago
don’t let our voice be silenced! 9 january 2012 we are kindly asking you all to be the voice for troops; we need your support to have our voice’s be heard on the matter of troops, who were exposed to burn pits in iraq and afghanistan, and are now returning home with lung illnesses including asthma, chronic bronchitis and sleep apnea. i wish to share our concerns regarding the safety of our troops and believe that it is our government's responsibility to treat servicememebers whose ailments are directly linked to exposure to dangerous toxins. as early as 2002, u.s. military installations in afghanistan and iraq began to rely on open-air burn pits to dispose of waste materials despite concerns about air pollution. emissions from burning waste contain fine particulate matter, sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and various irritant gases such as nitrogen oxides that can scar the lungs. emissions also contain super-toxic chemicals such as dioxin that are known or suspected to be carcinogens. an open air burn pit an area devoted to open-air combustion of trash. modern waste contains significant amounts of plastic and other material which may emit toxic aerial compounds and particulates when burned. in iraq and afghanistan the u.s. military or its contractors such as kbr operated large burn pits for long periods of time burning many tons of assorted waste. active duty personnel reported respiratory difficulties and headaches in some cases and some veterans have made disability claims based on respiratory system symptoms to more life threating diseases. according to a brief, instead of removing the refuse safely, kbr chose to burn the unsorted waste in gigantic, open burn pits that produced flames hundreds of feet into the sky, injuring many, by exposing them to highly toxic smoke, ash and fumes emanating from the pits. can you imagine inhaling these toxic fumes 24/7 for up to 18 month deployments? currently a burn pit registry act of 2011 has been introduced senate bill # s. 1798, and the house bill h.r. 3337 to create a registry, similar to the agent orange registry and the gulf war registry, that will help collect the facts needed to find the connections between burn pit exposure and health problems affecting our servicemen and women. the legislation will also serve as a vehicle for improved communication and information dissemination for affected veterans. although these bills mentioned are a good thing, it will take many years as have agent orange registry and the gulf war registry to get the help our troops need. many troops exposed to agent orange and gulf war have died waiting for help that never came. we need and ask for your voice to get the help our injured troops need now. follow burn pit voices on http://facebook.com/burnpit.voices
KimberlyMc 13 years ago
My son Elijah just died at the age of 21 from Acute Leukemia. He was in the ARMY and did his time in Iraq. He got out in November. He had medical problems that started while he was in Iraq. From May to Augest of 2010 he went to the doctors and VA over 24 times. Yet two days after his last visit to the VA he died from what appartnly no one (not even him) knew he had. How many others are there? How many young people who served in Iraq have died from Leukemia? How many are getting substandard care or are being brushed aside?

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