Cancer patient blames toxic burn pits in Iraq
Posted by defensebaseactcomp on March 25, 2010
When she volunteered to work in Iraq with the military, defense staffer Emilye Rainwater confronted her mortality in much the same way soldiers do.
Picturing any number of perils, she packed her bags, said a prayer and headed overseas hoping for the best.
It never crossed her mind, she said, that the trip might leave her terminally ill.
Six months after returning to her Sahuarita home, the defense contracting officer now fights for life in a Tucson hospital, stricken with a virulent form of blood cancer.
She and others suspect they were poisoned by toxins released when thousands of tons military trash was burned in massive open-air pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rainwater is one of more than 300 troops, civilians and their survivors suing KBR Inc. and former parent firm Halliburton, claiming the Texas-based military contractors ran the burn pits without regard for the hazards they posed to human health.
“You think, when you go over there, about all the things that could happen. But you never think of something like this,” said Rainwater, 41, diagnosed a few months ago with acute myeloid leukemia, a disease that typically strikes men in their 60s. The risk for the illness is known to increase with exposure to toxic chemicals.
Rainwater spoke in a phone interview from Tucson Medical Center after a fourth round of chemotherapy to try to become well enough for a stem-cell transplant, her best chance for survival.
The class-action court case, representing plaintiffs from more than 30 states, contends that many items that could not be burned outdoors legally in the U.S. – including plastic water bottles, PVC pipes, lithium batteries, vehicle tires, styrofoam, paints and solvents, asbestos insulation, and medical waste – were routinely disposed of that way on military bases and outposts overseas.
Hundreds of Americans who went to war healthy and inhaled the burn pit smoke now have chronic problems including respiratory illness, nerve damage, heart problems, nosebleeds, severe migraines, lung cancer or the same form of leukemia as Rainwater, the lawsuit claims.
KBR Inc., in a statement on its Web site, disputes negligence. Read the full story here