Congress moved closer Monday to approving help for tens of thousands of veterans exposed to toxic “burn pits” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It’s very exciting,” Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) told KARE 11. “Today the bill is passing.”

The military used jet fuel in open-air burn pits to try to dispose of everything from plastics to medical waste. The resulting smoke and fumes are suspected of causing serious illnesses and death.

Klobuchar co-sponsored a bipartisan measure that authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs to create a special medical center of excellence to study – and treat – the health effects.

”We need to better understand and address the relationship between burn pit exposure and the health needs of our brave men and women in uniform, and this bill will help accomplish that,” Klobuchar said.

Senate passage of the bill is welcome news for veterans like Jeremy Wolfsteller. He served in Iraq and experienced the burn pits first hand.

“We didn’t want to breathe in this black, dark smoke,” he said. “It was an awful experience. It’s something I don’t wish upon anyone.”

The American Legion has warned that without quick action to investigate the health impact of toxins released from burn pits, they could be this generation’s Agent Orange.

“We don’t want to see a delay like the Vietnam veterans had,” Wolfsteller said.

Health effects from exposure to chemicals found in burn pits may include cancer, neurological effects, reproductive effects, respiratory toxicity, and cardiovascular toxicity. Studies suggest that troops who worked in these areas are subject to higher rates of asthma, emphysema, and rare lung disorders.

“We don’t want to see a delay like the Vietnam veterans had,” Wolfsteller said.

The “Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act” passed the Senate as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018.

The bipartisan bill still needs approval in the House.