At least 48 Oregon National Guardsmen are reporting ill effects that may have come from an airborne carcinogen they contacted while working in southern Iraq, Stars and Stripes is reporting.
In December, CBS News reported that Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), a military-contracting firm, may have knowingly exposed troops to dangerous toxins in Iraq, then waited up to four months before warning the Amy about the exposure to an airborne carcinogen.The chemical in question is hexavalent chromium that was found at a southern Iraq water plant as early as May 2003. The chemical is used to prevent rust in water pipes but was reportedly left in open containers and circulated by the wind.
Last month, 16 Indiana guardsmen sued KBR over their exposure.
The suit claims Houston-based KBR, “disregarded and downplayed the extreme danger of wholesale site contamination,” instead claiming they were sand allergies. KBR denies any wrongdoing.
One 42-year old Indiana soldier who worked at the plant died of lung cancer in July. A second soldier is critically ill. CBS interviewed James Gentry formerly of the Indiana National Guard, who arrived in southern Iraq in April 2003, to protect other KBR contractors working at the water plant.
Today Gentry is dying from a rate form of lung cancer, after he spent months inhaling hexavalent chromium.
Oregon guardsmen worked at the water facility for a shorter time than those from Indiana.
CBS obtain depositions from military contractor KBR that found employees were concerned about the chemical by 2003, but downplayed the danger.
One former KBR employee, Ed Blacke, testified that as a Health, Safety and Environmental coordinator in Iraq, he noticed a reddish-orange material spread on the ground at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant near Basra, Iraq. As an emergency medical technician, he noted many had bloody noses, were pitting iup blood and had irritates nose, throat and lung problems. He researched Sodium Dichronmate and found in contained Hexavalent Chromium, a carcinogen. When he complained he was told he was “no longer appreciated and I would be better off going home.”
A Senate committee received testimony that exposure to what amounts to a grain of salt of hexavalent chromium in a cubic yard, has shown a 50 percent increase in cancers.
In Oregon, the Guard is planning to contact all 420 members of the battalion to inform them of the potential for risk. Many didn’t directly visit the water treatment facility but The Oregonian reports that the toxins adhere to boots and may have exposed hundreds more when they returned to camp.
Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, is asking Congress to create a medical registry to track all soldiers and to monitor them, a move supported by President-elect Obama.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), is calling on KBR to come clean about any knowledge of toxins present at the plant in Iraq.
"This situation with KBR may just be the tip of the iceberg. From burn pits to power plants, we are hearing more and more about troops who have been exposed to toxins while serving our country overseas," said IAVA Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff said in a statement.
KBR has won more than $28 billion in U.S. military contracts, through its then parent company Halliburton.
The contractor has come under scrutiny for allegedly dodging U.S. taxes by paying through companies in the Cayman Islands, for failing to protect women working for KBR from rape, serving outdated food and untreated water to soldiers, and for failing to keep personnel safe at military installations where several soldiers were electrocuted. #