The brain cancer that killed former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Maj. Beau Biden, might have been caused by burn pit exposure in Kosovo and Iraq, Biden said in a recent interview.
"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," he said in a PBS NewsHour interview early this month.
Beau Biden, a judge advocate general (JAG) officer in the Delaware National Guard, died from brain cancer in 2015. He had been deployed to Iraq in 2009, and worked as a civilian lawyer with the U.S. attorney's office in Kosovo.
Beau Biden with his mother, Dr. Jill Biden.
A book published last year, The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America's Soldiers, by former Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Hickman, includes a chapter on Beau Biden's cancer and its possible links to burn pit exposure.
In the interview, Joe Biden said he had been unaware of any potential link before reading that book.
"There's a whole chapter on my son Beau in there, and that stunned me. I didn't know that," he said in the interview.
Burn pits were routinely used in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of waste. Although government officials have declined to establish a firm link between burn pits and veterans' health problems, including rare forms of cancer and respiratory diseases, the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2014 established a registry for veterans to log their exposure and complaints.
More than 120,000 veterans have logged themselves in the registry. An estimated three million are eligible to join, according to the VA.
A federal judge last year dismissed a major lawsuit by veterans, contractors and their families against KBR, a defense contractor, for operating burn pits they claimed caused deadly respiratory diseases and cancer.
But the judge dismissed the suit, saying that KBR cannot be held liable for a Pentagon decision to use burn pits for waste disposal.