Defense Base Act Compensation Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Cancer’

Burn, Baby !, Burn !

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on September 4, 2012

Remember when rioters in Watts, Calif., began shouting “Burn, Baby! BURN!” in the turmoil of 1965? I’m sure they didn’t have the following future in mind.

That would be the various lawsuits against KBR for operating burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. But we should all be paying attention to this and not just for the human toll it has taken on soldiers and contractors. It also says something disturbing about the ability of the federal government to exercise proper control over its private contractors.

by David Isenberg at Huffington Post  September 4, 2012

An article, “Military Burn Pits in Iraq and Afghanistan: Considerations and Obstacles for Emerging Litigation” by Kate Donovan Kurera, in the Fall 2010 issue of the Pace Environmental Law Review provides the necessary insight.

For those who haven’t been paying attention the last four years the background goes thusly:

Burn pits have been relied on heavily as a waste disposal method at military installations in Iraq and Afghanistan since the beginning of United States military presence in these countries in 2001 and 2003, respectively. Little attention was paid to the pits in Iraq and Afghanistan until Joshua Eller, a computer technician deployed in Iraq, filed suit in 2008 against KBR for negligently exposing thousands of soldiers, former KBR employees, and civilians to unsafe conditions due to “faulty waste disposal systems.” Eller and a group of more than two hundred plaintiffs returning from their tours of duty, attribute chronic illnesses, disease, and even death to exposure to thick black and green toxic burn pit smoke that descended into their living quarters and interfered with military operations.

The plaintiffs assert that they witnessed batteries, plastics, biohazard materials, solvents, asbestos, chemical and medical wastes, items doused with diesel fuel, and even human remains being dumped into open burn pits. Defense Department officials say this waste stream contained items now prohibited pursuant to revised guidelines. Plaintiffs contend that KBR breached these contracts by negligently operating burn pits.

As of August 2010 there were an estimated two hundred and fifty one burns pits operating in Afghanistan and twenty two in Iraq. The most attention has focused on the burn pit operating at Joint Base Balad in Iraq, which was suspected of burning two hundred and forty tons of waste a day at peak operation

While the health impact of the pits is what the media focuses on, Kurera sees even more important legal issues: She writes:  Please read the entire article here

Posted in ACE, Afghanistan, AIG and CNA, AWOL Medical Records, Burn Pits, Cancer, Chartis, Civilian Contractors, Defense Base Act, Exclusive Remedy, Iraq, KBR, Misjudgements, Political Watch, Toxic Exposures, Zurich | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Burn Pit Lung Condition Added to Social Security List of Compassionate Allowances

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on August 12, 2012

Jon Gelmans Workers Compensation Blog  August 11, 2012

The Social Security Administration has added to its list of compassionate allowances a pulmonary condition that has been identified as arising out of exposures to burn pits fumes and dusts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The pulmonary disease, constrictive bronchiolitis, is also called obliterative bronchiolitis or bronchiolitis obliterates. Medical research has been identified the medical condition as being causally related to exposures to dust and fumes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Compassionate Allowances (CAL) are a way of quickly identifying diseases and other medical conditions that invariably qualify under the Listing of Impairments based on minimal objective medical information. Compassionate Allowances allow Social Security to target the most obviously disabled individuals for allowances based on objective medical information that we can obtain quickly. Compassionate Allowances is not a separate program from the Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income programs.”

Click here to read more about burn pit claims for benefits and lawsuits.
Click here to request further information

Posted in Afghanistan, Burn Pits, Cancer, Civilian Contractors, Defense Base Act, Defense Base Act Insurance, Department of Labor, Iraq, LHWCA Longshore Harbor Workers Compesnation Act, Toxic Exposures, Veterans, Veterans Affairs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Mesothelioma, Toxic Exposures, Veterans and Civilian Contractors

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on August 9, 2012

Mesothelioma and Veterans,  Civilian Contractors

Guest Post By Douglas Karr    August 9, 2012

Military members are exposed to plenty of risks that the average person would never have to deal with. In addition to the traditional dangers faced by military personnel, they are also at a higher risk for exposure to harmful substances. This is why military veterans need to be conscious of their risk for developing mesothelioma. This dangerous and rare cancer is caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos. Most people never come into contact with asbestos. Veterans have more exposure, especially when they go abroad. A veteran needs to keep an eye out for symptoms in order to catch the problem early.

Exposure Through Overseas Deployment
Veterans are at much higher risk of mesothelioma when they are sent overseas. This is especially true in the age of urban warfare. Asbestos can most often be found in older buildings. Though most American buildings have been purged of the substance, this is not the case with many older buildings in places like Iraq. In urban warfare, these older buildings are often destroyed in firefights and air attacks. When that happens, the asbestos can make its way into the air, causing damage for any person who is forced to breathe it in.

The big danger for veterans in these areas is that they often do not know that they’ve been exposed. If you are simply walking through the streets of Iraq, you have no way of knowing what things you are breathing in. This can produce a significant risk. Those individuals who have served their country in Iraq should keep their eye out for the earliest signs of the disease. Though it is rare and most people will not develop mesothelioma, it is worth considering. Even short periods of exposure can be harmful in many instances.

The Military Functions That Bring About Asbestos Exposure
Not all military personnel are at the same level of risk. As veterans can attest, the military employs many different kinds of professionals. Not every person is out fighting on the front lines. Some people are directed with destroying buildings, while others are involved in construction. In the past, people have done milling or mining. These are jobs and functions that bring about much more risk. A report from the Department of Veterans Affairs confirms this heightened level of risk. That report indicates that any individual who has been involved in these special functions should be on the lookout for difficulties.

Understanding What Mesothelioma is All About
A veteran who is concerned about exposure should understand what to look for. It is a debilitating form of cancer that can move quickly. At its core, the cancer works on the chest and respiratory system. It can cause pain in that area and it can cause shortness of breath. People who notice intense amounts of pain or any blood in their mucus should be wary. It is important to catch this cancer at its earliest stages because it has a tendency to take hold in a hurry.

Posted in ACE, Afghanistan, AIG and CNA, Cancer, Civilian Contractors, Defense Base Act, Department of Labor, Iraq, LHWCA Longshore Harbor Workers Compesnation Act, Toxic Exposures, Veterans | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Dan Hoagland’s Death Sentence at the hands of AIG’s Overly Zealous Defense

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on July 4, 2012

Injured War Zone Contractor Dan Hoagland shares his story of medical treatment denied  by KBR/AIG resulting in a death sentence by Cancer with Sean Calleb.

Scott Bloch, Defense Base Act Attorney tells the truth about the Defense Base Act Insurance Scandal and our Defense Base Act Class Action Lawsuit.

Join our Defense Base Act Class Action Lawsuit here

Posted in AIG and CNA, AWOL Medical Records, Cancer, Chartis, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act, Defense Base Act Attorneys, Defense Base Act Insurance, Defense Base Act Lawyers, Delay, Deny, Department of Labor, Dropping the DBA Ball, Hope that I die, Interviews with Injured War Zone Contractors, Iraq, KBR, Misjudgements | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Diesel exhaust fumes cause cancer, WHO says

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on June 12, 2012

Christopher Portier, chairman of the IARC working Group, said the group’s conclusion “was unanimous – that diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans”.

LONDON (Reuters) –  June 12, 2012

Diesel engine exhaust fumes cause cancer in humans and belong in the same potentially deadly category as asbestos, arsenic and mustard gas, World Health Organisation (WHO) experts said on Tuesday.

The experts, who said their findings were unanimous and based on “compelling” scientific evidence, urged people across the world to reduce their exposure to diesel fumes wherever possible.

In an announcement likely to cause consternation among car and truck makers, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the WHO’s cancer department, reclassified diesel exhausts from its group 2A of probable carcinogens to its group 1 of substances that have definite links to cancer.

“The (expert) working group found that diesel exhaust is a cause of lung cancer and also noted a positive association with an increased risk of bladder cancer,” it said in a statement.

Posted in Cancer, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act, LHWCA Longshore Harbor Workers Compesnation Act | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Iraq veteran is cancer ‘timebomb’

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on July 21, 2011

Published on Thursday 21 July 2011 10:30 at Chad UK

AN Iraq War veteran from Skegby has spoken of his fear he may develop cancer as a result of the deadly chemicals he was exposed to while serving in Basra.

Cpl Jon Caunt (35) undertook five tours of Iraq between 2003 and 2007 when he and other members of the RAF Regiment were exposed to a distinctive orange powder at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant.

British troops, who were working alongside US forces and staff from private contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), did not know the orange powder was in fact Sodium Dichromate, which contains a cancer-causing compound.

It is banned in many countries and had been used to stop pipes rusting.

The soldiers were responsible for restoring the plant so Iraqi people could resume oil production in a bid to rebuild their economy after the war – but they had no protection from the chemical and would often sleep on the ground surrounded by it.

Cpl Caunt said: “You have got to understand that we were breathing it in, we were firing in it and it was blown up by the wind – this stuff was everywhere.”

It was only when he was later contacted by Sgt Andy Tosh and underwent a medical examination in April this year that he became aware of the serious threat the exposure had to his health.

He said: “Until I went for the medical, I did not realise how serious it was. When I got the results back, I did not want to look at them.”

Cpl Caunt’s medical revealed he already had the symptoms of several diseases, including respiratory, stomach and skin diseases.

“I have had skin complaints for a while, but I just dismissed it and never really thought anything of it until this came up,” he said.

“I am still fit because I am still serving but I lose my breath a lot more than I used to. There are quite a few of the RAF Regiment lads who are ill and it’s down to the exposure.”

Cpl Caunt fears he could be a ‘cancer time bomb’.

“It could be next year or it could be in 10 years – let’s hope it never happens,” he said. “But it’s a worry I have got to live with I’m afraid

Please read the entire article at Chad UK

Posted in Cancer, Civilian Contractors, Iraq, KBR, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Military using potentially harmful methods of burning trash

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on October 15, 2010

Washington (CNN) Military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to use waste methods that expose troops to potentially toxic emissions without fully understanding the effects, according to a new government audit obtained by CNN.

Between September 2009 and October 2010, investigators from the Government Accountability Office visited four bases in Iraq and reviewed planning documents on waste disposal for bases in Afghanistan. None of the Iraq bases visited were in compliance with military regulations. All four burned plastic — which generates harmful emissions — despite regulations against doing so.

The emissions have been the source of controversy as troops have complained about a host of problems, from cancerous tumors to respiratory issues, blaming exposure to burn pits. Military officials have denied any consequential effects on most troops.

The military, the report concluded, has been slow in using alternatives and has not considered the long-term costs of dealing with subsequent health issues.

The report is expected to be released later Friday.

Posted in Afghanistan, Burn Pits, Cancer, Iraq | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Cloud of Smoke Could Put Soldiers’ Lives at Risk

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on June 27, 2010

Hundreds of Soldiers Say They Inhaled Toxic Smoke from Pits Where Military Burns Equipment, Medical Supplies, Hazardous Waste as were the Contractors

When soldiers go into war zones, they expect certain hazards on the battlefield but not necessarily on base, yet that’s where hundreds of soldiers say they were exposed to toxic fumes, CBS News Correspondent Jeff Glor reports.

This week, the American Lung Association issued a strong recommendation for the military to discontinue the use of open-air trash burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan because they are a dangerous health risk. Hundreds of soldiers who’ve been exposed to the burn pits say inhaling the toxic smoke has inflicted them with severe breathing problems and even cancer.

Michele Pearce is a fighter. She battled stomach cancer in 2008. Then doctors discovered another tumor in her lung.

“I literally just said, ‘Wow I could die,'” Pearce said.

Pearce – now in remission – was deployed to Iraq in 2006. She believes her cancer is connected to the months she spent inhaling smoke from base burn pits.

Christopher Sweet blames his wife’s leukemia on the burn pits she was exposed to in Afghanistan. Diagnosed in September 2008, Jessica Sweet died five months later.

“I don’t know that it gets easier,” said Sweet. “4:08. That’s the time that’s ingrained in my brain when you hear ‘Time of death, 4:08,’ and that’s your wife.”

The military authorized more than a hundred burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. The largest were operated by private contractors Halliburton and KBR, designed to burn everything from military equipment to medical supplies, batteries and hazardous waste.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Dr. Robert Miller of is treating more than a dozen soldiers exposed to burn-pit smoke.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the burn pits emit toxins,” said Miller. “It’s a solid waste burning. It’s a practice that’s essentially outlawed in the United States.”

Sweet, Pearce and nearly 400 military personnel are part of a class-action lawsuit against KBR, accusing the company of negligence and illegally burning waste.

Last November, former KBR employee Rick Lamberth told senators he’d witnessed operators improperly throwing hazardous waste into burn pits.

“I was told to shut up and keep that to myself,” Lamberth said.

KBR turned down CBS News’ request for an interview but said in a statement that “the military, not KBR, decides what method of waste disposal will be used … what items can be disposed .. and it complied with all military directives.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y., pushed legislation to force the military to shut down many burn pits, but 40, including 11 KBR pits, are still in operation.

“I do not want to see these burn pits become the Agent Orange of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars,” Bishop said.

Despite a 2006 leaked internal Pentagon memo warning of chronic health concerns, the military maintains it needs time to study the smoke exposure effects.

Pearce said she just wants answers.

“What did these companies do to put my life at risk?” Pearce asked.

Sweet believes the bottom line is his wife’s death should have been prevented.

“If she wasn’t exposed to the burn pits, I believe she’d be here today, absolutely,” Sweet said.

With most of the soldiers unable to serve, the Department of Veterans Affairs has issued guidelines to doctors and has launched a study to evaluate the long-term health effects from exposure to the burn pits.

Posted in Afghanistan, Burn Pits, Cancer, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Iraq, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

KBR: Private Military Cancer (PMC) Provider? Part II

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on June 11, 2010

David Isenberg at Huffington Post

Back in April I wrote about the lawsuit filed by Indiana National Guardsmen, against KBR. The suite suit alleges that KBR knowingly allowed exposure to the toxic chemical sodium dichromate, also known as hexavalent chromium. It was widely present as an orange-colored dust that soldiers assigned to guard the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in southern Iraq could not avoid inhaling. Sodium dichromate chromium is a powerful carcinogen known to cause lung, nasal and other cancers, other severe respiratory problems and other medical problems.

Yesterday, six more British Iraq vets and a former Indiana National Guardsmen sued KBR in Houston federal court over alleged toxic exposure at the Qarmat Ali site. This makes a total of 98 U.S. and U.K. vets and two families of vets who have died since serving in Iraq that have sued KBR in three cases pending in Texas, Oregon and West Virginia federal courts.

The amended complaint also includes recent confirmation from the U.S. Army that Indiana National Guard Commander Jim Gentry’s death from cancer resulted from his service exposure.

Here are some excerpts from the amended complaint.

Posted in Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, KBR, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Where There’s Smoke…..

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on May 9, 2010

Dan Rather Reports
Episode Number: 515

Episode Title: Where There’s Smoke…

Description: Soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan believe smoke coming from
enormous trash fires is making them ill and possibly causing cancer. And, as oil washes
ashore in the Gulf of Mexico, hard times for fishermen in Louisiana and fear in Alaska,
where big rigs are about begin drilling offshore.


Read the transcript here

Posted in Burn Pits, Cancer, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

American military creating an environmental disaster in Afghan countryside

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on April 26, 2010

America plans to withdraw its troops but leave behind a toxic mess

The Kabul Press Part One of Three

The American military presence in Afghanistan consists of fleets of aircraft, helicopters, armored vehicles, weapons, equipment, troops and facilities. Since 2001, they have generated millions of kilograms of hazardous, toxic and radioactive wastes. The Kabul Press asks the simple question:

“What have the Americans done with all that waste?”

The answer is chilling in that virtually all of it appears to have been buried, burned or secretly disposed of into the air, soil, groundwater and surface waters of Afghanistan. While the Americans may begin to withdraw next year, the toxic chemicals they leave behind will continue to pollute for centuries. Any abandoned radioactive waste may stain the Afghan countryside for thousands of years. Afghanistan has been described in the past as the graveyard of foreign armies. Today, Afghanistan has a different title:

“Afghanistan is the toxic dumping ground for foreign armies.”

The (U.S.) Air Force Times ran an editorial on March 1, 2010, that read: “Stamp Out Burn Pits” We reprint here the first half of that editorial:

“A growing number of military medical professionals believe burn pits are causing a wave of respiratory and other illnesses among troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Found on almost all U.S. bases in the war zones, these open-air trash sites operate 24 hours a day, incinerating trash of all forms — including plastic bottles, paint, petroleum products, unexploded ordinance, hazardous materials, even amputated limbs and medical waste. Their smoke plumes belch dioxin, carbon monoxide and other toxins skyward, producing a toxic fog that hangs over living and working areas. Yet while the Air Force fact sheet flatly states that burn pits “can be harmful to human health and environment and should only be used until more suitable disposal capabilities are established,” the Pentagon line is that burn pits have “no known long-term health effects.”

Please read the full story here

Posted in Cancer, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Department of Labor, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Why did Sgt. Thomas die?

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 21, 2010

Contractors are also coming down with these aggressive cancers during and after deployment.

Contractors contact

to report cancer cases during or after deployment

By Matthew Hansen

Sgt. Klayton Thomas looked every bit the poster boy Marine as he strode into a military hospital last September to get his back checked.

He taught karate and earned his abs in the gym. He had survived a 2007 deployment to Iraq, even thrived during his prolonged stay in the middle of the then-treacherous Sunni Triangle. He rarely drank. He didn’t smoke. Life seemed perfect on this mid-September Thursday, if only his back would stop aching. The 25-year-old Columbus, Neb., native thought he had wrenched it playing soccer. Three months and 10 days later, he died in hospice care.

This much is known: Thomas succumbed to an unstoppable lung cancer that crushed his vertebrae, blitzed his bones and invaded his brain, dumbfounding doctors who had spent their entire careers treating the disease.

His death leaves a medical mystery, one similar to those posed by hundreds of other American military personnel battling exotic cancers or struggling with rare respiratory problems.

This mystery begins in the unlikeliest of places: Iraqi “burn pits” — large, primitive landfills where contractors set trash aflame, causing ever-present black smoke to drift over dozens of U.S. military bases.

Health experts, a high-powered defense lawyer, Congress and even the president have taken notice, asking questions like Klayton Thomas’ parents and doctors asked in the weeks after he fell ill.

Why would an otherwise healthy young nonsmoker contract a cancer that generally haunts older smokers? Why did this cancer spread like wildfire when experts say its normal path can take years?

Simply put: Why did Sgt. Klayton Thomas die?

“We were scared to death when he went to Iraq, scared of a mortar attack, an IED,” said his mother, Connie Thomas of Columbus. “But nothing like this. Not in our wildest dreams.”

* * *

Just before Halloween, Thomas and his parents met Dr. Ray Lin at San Diego’s Scripps Medical Center. A month had passed since doctors first found white spots on Thomas’ lungs, and as the Marine and his parents took their seats in the radiologist’s office, they felt as if they now lived inside a never-ending nightmare.

First the cancer had spread into Thomas’ spine, his hips, his shoulder blades. Then he had endured his first chemo treatment and an excruciating back surgery to put cement into his crushed sixth vertebra.

The pain had gotten so severe he couldn’t sleep, even with the aid of morphine, and could barely move without a walker.

Thomas’ wife could comfort him only by cell phone — Mia, a Filipina whom Thomas had married while stationed in the Philippines, was struggling to secure her American visa.

But the blackest day had come on the last day in September, on Thomas’ first visit to the highly regarded Scripps hospital.

On that day, Dr. Robert Sarnoff, president of the facility’s medical group, had delivered the news:

Sgt. Thomas, he said, this is bad. You have a 5 percent chance to live.

Connie and Dave Thomas had flown from Columbus to San Diego to fight through layers of military bureaucracy and secure their son special treatment at the nonmilitary hospital.

Now Lin pulled out an X-ray of Thomas’ shoulder. A healthy shoulder X-ray should show up white. The X-ray Lin held was shrouded in black.

Lin told the family that Thomas could have a genetic predisposition to cancer — his father and several uncles had survived various cancers in middle age.

But there must have been an additional trigger for the cancer to spread this quickly, he said, according to the Thomas family. (Lin was out of the country, according to a hospital spokesman, and privacy laws prevent Scripps from discussing Thomas’ case.)

Have you been exposed to something toxic, Klayton?

Thomas sat silently for a moment and then told the doctor and his shocked parents about the burn pit near where he lived and worked at al-Taqaddum Air Base in Iraq.

He told them about the hazardous materials burned there. He told them the smoke sometimes darkened the sky and grew so thick it choked him.

That night, his mother, a nursing home administrator, sent out one of her mass e-mails updating family and friends on Thomas’ condition. Usually she wrote these e-mails resolutely, marking them with hope that a miracle could occur, that her son would recover.

Not that night.

“I can’t understand why God is allowing this to happen,” she wrote.

* * *

The burn pits kept on burning as the Iraq war stretched to its third year, then its fourth.

Military contractors burned nearly every bit of waste from military bases — trash that included plastics, batteries, old weapons, ruined machinery and a fuel known to cause cancer, according to government and independent reports.

They burned because military leaders originally saw the pits as temporary, a congressman thinks, the simplest way to dispose of trash before troops quickly exited Iraq.

But as the war continued, they burned because it saved money, according to subsequent lawsuits, allowing U.S. contractors to avoid having to install costly incinerators.

For most service members, the resulting clouds of smoke were a nuisance, simply a part of deployed life, like the Iraqi sandstorms and the scorching desert heat.

But troops and contractors stationed at al-Taqaddum Air Base, where Klayton Thomas eventually served, and all across Iraq started to complain about a grab-bag of symptoms often diagnosed as severe colds.

But for a select few, those clouds of smoke represented something far more ominous.

Cpl. Chris Bravo, suffering from constant headaches and no longer able to climb a flight of stairs without gasping for breath, suspected a different culprit after spending most of 2004 and 2005 at al-Taqaddum, commonly known as “TQ.”

His unit often escorted trash trucks into the burn pit, providing security while the contractors dumped waste into the football field-size landfill.

On several occasions, Bravo spent most of his day inside the pit. The smoke was so thick he sometimes couldn’t see the man in front of him.

“Awful smell, like burned plastic,” said Bravo, now 27 and a military policeman in South Carolina. “I would question myself, like, ‘Man, I don’t think I should be out here in this.’ ”

Service members stationed at more than 100 bases in Iraq and Afghanistan began to ask similar questions as more and more complained of the “Iraqi crud” — a constant cough with darkened phlegm — often blamed on the horrific sandstorms.

The burn pit smoke got so bad around the Air Force base at Balad that computer programmers included it in a simulation teaching pilots how to land there.

Elizabeth Hilpert, a maintenance contractor working near the TQ burn pit in 2006, said she and several co-workers experienced fatigue and shortness of breath, especially when they entered the burn pit to scrounge for salvage parts. Hilpert wrote a safety report to her supervisor, questioning whether the pit was sickening her and others.

“I was told they wouldn’t submit it,” said Hilpert, a North Carolina resident who has suffered chronic headaches, lung problems and memory loss since returning from Iraq.

In 2006, an Air Force bioenvironmental engineer, Lt. Col. Darrin Curtis, became the first military expert to give credence to the troops’ isolated concerns.

He wrote a memo warning his superiors that a potpourri of poisons — arsenic, cyanide, Freon, formaldehyde and benzene, an aircraft fuel known to cause cancer — had likely burned in the Balad pit, causing an “acute health hazard for individuals.”

“It is amazing that the burn pit has been able to operate without restrictions over the past few years,” wrote Curtis, an expert in environmental workplace hazards. Curtis’ memo, eventually obtained by the Military Times, was co-signed by the chief of aeromedical services for the Air Force’s 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing.

But for years, the military’s senior health protection officials dismissed the memo, saying there was no proof that burn pits caused long-term health risks.

The memo prompted a joint Air Force and Army assessment, a draft of which concluded that the burn pits greatly elevated the risks of cancer at the Balad base.

Military leaders quickly retracted that draft, saying a computing error had caused a faulty conclusion. A second study concluded that burn pits caused only two health problems: Eye irritation. And short-term coughing.

* * *

Sgt. Thomas insisted: no wheelchair.

It was Thanksgiving weekend, and his parents had planned a trip to SeaWorld, their first real break in months from the hospital-and-hotel routine.

At long last, Thomas’ wife, Mia, was in town; she had finally been issued a visa and had joyfully reunited with her husband in early November.

The Marine wanted to show Mia San Diego. He wanted his parents, aunt, cousins, nephews and nieces to enjoy themselves.

But he’d be damned if he was going to ride in a wheelchair across SeaWorld’s massive parking lot.

Instead, the former martial arts expert and serious weightlifter steeled himself for his biggest physical challenge in months.

He would make it to the whales on his own two feet.

“He didn’t want to be left out in any way,” Connie Thomas said. “He was too proud.”

The Marine’s struggle to walk, a mere two months after his initial diagnosis, perplexed his doctors and confuses outside experts.

Dr. Rudy Lackner, a University of Nebraska Medical Center surgeon who often operates on lung cancer patients, said it’s shocking enough that a 25-year-old got lung cancer at all.

Only 0.1 percent of lung cancer patients are younger than 30, Lackner said.

Most of them have smoked continuously since they hit puberty or grew up in a household where secondhand smoke was always present.

Neither is true in Thomas’ case. He told doctors he had smoked for less than a year, and even then only an occasional puff on a cigarette. And no one in his immediate family smoked.

The medical center surgeon speculated that Thomas’ cancer might have been caused by a genetic predisposition to the disease coupled with an exposure to something toxic.

That squares with what Thomas’ San Diego radiologist had told the family in October, when he first learned of the burn pit.

Said surgeon Lackner: “To see somebody that young with cancer present in September, and then be dead by December, that would certainly seem much more rapid than you’d ever expect.

“Burning rubber, plastics, asbestos — all of that or any of it could contribute to the development of a cancer.”

By the Saturday after Thanksgiving, when the Thomas family visited SeaWorld, the tumor in Klayton Thomas’ lung had grown so large it threatened to cut off his airway. Cancer cells had entered his brain, giving him pounding headaches and causing short- and long-term memory loss.

Still, he walked all the way to the whales. He trudged up the stadium stairs, trying to ignore the searing pain in his hips. He cheered along with his family as Shamu and the gang pirouetted in the water and leaped into the air.

It was only after he had fed the whales and posed for photos with Mia that his strength started to wane. His mother had secretly reserved a SeaWorld wheelchair in case this moment arrived.

“Klayton, I think you need this,” she said.

“I guess so,” he agreed.

They started to move around the park — everyone wanted to see the flamingos — but soon the Marine’s temples pounded so hard that he bent over and clamped his head between his hands.

That was the signal, the family agreed. They headed for the parking lot.

* * *

On Nov. 6, the burn pit movement got its day on Capitol Hill.

The chief allergist of a New York veterans hospital testified that Americans who deploy to Iraq were twice as likely as other veterans to develop respiratory illnesses, according to his four-year study.

Others who testified cited a large group of Kentucky soldiers found to suffer from bronchiolitis, which can irreparably damage the lungs, after exposure to a particularly toxic Iraqi fire in 2003.

They ridiculed the military’s previous burn pit studies. One tested for air quality during Iraq’s wet season, which, according to the VA hospital’s allergist, “is like testing for snow in Albany during the summer.”

In response, Rep. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y., introduced a bill that would create a complete list of burn pits, mandate a registry for all troops exposed to the pits and give those troops special physical exams. It is designed to build on a previous Bishop proposal, passed into law, that seemingly barred the use of most burn pits in Iraq, though dozens are still operating.

“There is just too much evidence that these burn pits are hazardous for (the military) to continue to ignore it,” Bishop told The World-Herald.

It’s also getting harder to ignore a class-action lawsuit originally filed in Texas in December 2008.

Since then, more than 300 service members and contractors in 42 states have joined the multimillion-dollar lawsuit, which alleges that burn pits run by the military contractor KBR (formerly Kellogg Brown and Root) caused their health problems.

Most who have joined the lawsuit are suffering from pulmonary illnesses, said Susan Burke, the group’s lawyer.

A smaller number of military personnel joined the suit after being diagnosed with cancer, which they say developed because of known carcinogens burned in the pits.

Ten of those with cancer have died. Burke said most of them were in prime physical condition but succumbed in months.

“These are young men and women who voluntarily went off to fight for all of us, and an American company poisoned them,” Burke said.

KBR lawyers say the company followed military protocol when it designed and operated the burn pits. There’s no definitive proof that a burn pit directly harmed anyone’s health or caused the myriad symptoms described in the lawsuit, they contend.

The sick service members and contractors sense that no matter the outcome of the lawsuit, they are turning a corner with the U.S. government.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki told military reporters last year that his administration would not repeat the errors of Agent Orange. For decades, the military denied that the herbicide — used to destroy dense jungles during the Vietnam War — caused sickness. Eventually officials admitted the link between Agent Orange and the illnesses of thousands of veterans.

President Barack Obama said last year that his administration had no interest in “sweeping things under the rug.”

And, on Dec. 16, R. Craig Postlewaite, the American military’s senior health protection official, publicly acknowledged that the burn pits had probably caused serious illness.

“We feel at this point in time that it’s quite plausible — in fact, likely — that there are a small number of people that have been affected with longer-term health problems,” he told the Salt Lake Tribune.

The Department of Defense is launching a more comprehensive study that could further validate outside research that indicates the burn pits have sickened troops. And the military has installed incinerators at Balad, closing Iraq’s most infamous burn pit.

“At times you feel like you are battling this all alone,” Elizabeth Hilpert said. “But the story is changing.”

* * *

Sgt. Klayton Thomas won’t see it end.

Two days after Christmas — two weeks after the military acknowledged a probable link between the burn pits and serious illness — Thomas walked from his bathroom to the living room recliner where he spent all his time.

He sat back down, looked toward his reading lamp, gasped twice and stopped breathing.

His family buried him on a frigid Saturday in January.

Bundled-up Marines carried the flag-draped casket. They fired a 21-gun salute into the air. They hugged his mother and his widow.

In the weeks since, Connie Thomas has continued to e-mail friends and family.

She sends photos of her son. Klayton in his dress uniform. Klayton showing off his muscles at the beach. Klayton gritting out a smile during the final month of his life.

She forwards inspirational poems — poems about Marines in heaven, standing guard.

She occasionally passes along a few details of burn pit information, but mostly she leaves that to the experts and the lawyers.

The medical mystery might never be completely solved, but Connie said she doesn’t need to see more public health studies or lung biopsy research projects.

She said she knows why her boy is buried beneath a temporary marker, covered by snow.

“I have no doubt,” she said. “That burn pit killed my son.”

Contact the writer:


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“Depleted Uranium From Sea To Shining Sea:” Cancer Kills US Soldiers And Iraqi Civilians

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 1, 2010

We are hearing from more and more contractors every day with deadly aggressive cancers after spending time in Iraq. Some are being sent home with them.   No one is counting them…..

As early as 2007, four years after the war in Iraq, the medical journal Lancet Oncology and Epinews observed a trend: that several cancer registries were being locked out of Veteran’s Administration [VA] data beginning late 2004 (a year after the war in Iraq). For decades the VA had voluntarily shared its data, allowing access to cancer patients. A Centers for Disease Control spokesman said that as a result of the lock out, “Potentially, 40 000 to 70 000 cases were missed nationally each year.” With the national estimate of cases askew, the spike in cancer rates of soldiers being diagnosed with cancer post 2003 deployment — remains unreported.

I have tracked nearly 40 soldiers since 2006 who have been diagnosed with rare, aggressive forms of cancer post-tour. Half have already died. The DoD and VA are less then forthright about this pattern –even as they approach the seventh anniversary of the war this March.

The environmental culprit, depleted Uranium and most recently the carcinogenic smoke from burn pits (the military’s resolve of disposing their sanitation in landfills—is burning the refuse, no matter what the content, in acre size dirt pits).

The United Nations Environment Programme has been conducting measurements of DU sites in Kosovo since 2000, later including Serbia, Bosnia, Kuwait and Iraq (the latter to be found with 42 contaminated sites). Their “Depleted Uranium Awareness” pamphlet admits there is a DU concern –but down-plays the cancer risks. DU is unable to penetrate the skin, but once there is inhalation or ingestion of the radiological DU dust, its toxicity has the ability to radiate the lungs and gut (multiplying in the cells).

Their projected time frame after exposure is 10 – 20 years before symptoms appear. But that is far from the truth, as soldiers lay ravaged in VA hospitals across the U. S. — or their family’s, kneeling at the foot of a needless grave, know all too well. Privy to the VA data since 2003, the DoD is familiar with their diagnosis of an uncontrollable wildfire of rare cancer, appearing four to 36 months after exposure.

It is abhorrent that the DoD and mainstream media has stood shoulder to shoulder with locked arms blocking this information from the masses — military and civilian — in fear of soldiers deflecting. Especially when protective masks, gear and literature is readily available but intentionally withheld. But is death the only option? The young widow of Army Command Sergeant Major [CSM] James W. Hubbard Jr., with the 139th Medical Group Unit in Independence, Missouri, shares his story below.

Read this entire post by RB Stuart at Huff Post

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Posted by defensebaseactcomp on November 5, 2009

Dorgan jpeg

For Immediate Release:                                               FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Wednesday                                                                         CONTACT: Barry E. Piatt

November 4, 2009                                                          PHONE: 202-224-0577

Tens of Thousands of Soldiers May Have Been Exposed:


( WASHINGTON , D.C. ) — Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-ND) announced Wednesday the Senate Democratic Policy Committee (DPC) will conduct a congressional oversight hearing on Friday, November 6, to examine the health risks associated with the continued use of open-air burn pits by the U.S. military and contractor KBR in Iraq and Afghanistan .

The hearing is set for 10:00 AM and will be held in Room 628 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington , DC .

Although military guidelines allow the use of burn pits to dispose of waste only in emergency situations, most large U.S. military installations have continued to use burn pits for years, despite growing evidence that exposure to burn pit smoke may be causing an increased incidence of chronic lung diseases, respiratory ailments, neurological disorders and cancer.

Hearing witnesses are expected to testify that plastics, paint, solvents, petroleum products, rubber, and medical waste have been burned in the pits.

The hearing will also examine whether military contractor KBR operated the burn pits in a safe and cost-effective manner.

Witnesses will include the Air Force’s former Bioenvironmental Flight Commander at Joint Base Balad, who warned three years ago about health hazards associated with burn pit smoke at the base, two KBR whistleblowers, and a medical expert who will describe  the adverse health consequences associated with burn pit smoke inhalation.

Details follow:

WHO: Senators: Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Chairman, and others.

Witnesses: Lt. Colonel Darrin Curtis, former Air Force Bioenvironmental Flight Commander at Joint Base Balad; Rick Lamberth, former KBR employee; Russell Keith, former KBR medic; Dr. Anthony Szema, MD, expert on health impact of burn pit smoke.

WHAT: Congressional oversight hearing

WHERE:                Room 628 Dirksen Senate Office Building

WHEN: 10:00 AM, Friday, November 6, 2009

WHY: To examine the health impact of burn pit smoke on U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan , whether the Army is providing exposed soldiers and veterans with accurate information about the risks, and whether contractor KBR is safely operating the burn pits.

Posted in KBR, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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