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Posts Tagged ‘Toxic Exposures’

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 »

Defense Department Inspector General says KBR and the military failed to respond quickly to health risks posed to Oregon soldiers

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on September 28, 2011

The Oregonian   September 28, 2011

The Defense Department and contractor Kellogg, Brown & Root failed to act as quickly as they should have to protect those exposed to a carcinogenic chemical at an Iraqi water treatment plant in 2003, according to a report Wednesday by the Defense Department’s Inspector General.

The report was hailed as a victory for Oregon soldiers by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who was one of a group of senators who sought the IG’s evaluation, and by Oregon National Guard troops who are among those suing KBR. They accuse the contractor of knowingly exposing them to sodium dichromate, an anticorrosive compound that can cause skin and breathing problems and cancer.

Because KBR “did not fully comply with occupational safety and health standards required” under its contract with the Army, the Inspector General found, “a greater number of Service members and DoD civilian employees were exposed to sodium dichromate, and for longer periods, increasing the potential for chronic health effects.”

The report found that “nearly 1,000 Army soldiers and civilian employees were exposed to the compound in the five months it took from the initial site visit until the military command required personal protective equipment.

Please read more here

Posted in Cancer, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act, Iraq, KBR, Political Watch, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Toxic Tour

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on August 31, 2011

Theresa Campbell Daily Commercial  August 31, 2011

Jill Wilkins’ husband never mentioned the thick, black smoke that smoldered from toxic burn pits in Iraq.

It wasn’t until Kevin was dying from a brain tumor when a doctor questioned the Air Force Reserve nurse about his military service.

“Kevin, when you were over there were you exposed to anything?”

“Oh, yeah, all kinds of stuff,” he replied.

Those words stunned the Eustis wife and mother of two. Jill also learned through research that burn pits were being used in place of incinerators in Iraq and Afghanistan, where garbage, lithium batteries, tires, water bottles, human waste, metal, aluminum, hydraulic fluids, medical supplies and old medicines were doused with jet fuel and would burn 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Kevin had walked through the smoke daily, without a mask, while working at a clinic at Balad Air Base in Iraq during the summer of 2006. A second tour followed in 2007 in Qatar.

“I’m sure that even as he was exposed to it, in the back of his mind he wasn’t thinking that it could do something to him,” Jill said.

The U.S. government recently acknowledged the harmful effects of burn pits. In a report released last year by the United States Government Accountability Office, “burn pits help base commanders manage waste, but also produces smoke and harmful emissions that military and other health professionals believe may result in acute and chronic health effects to those exposed.”

The burn pit at Balad reportedly burned 250 tons of waste a day, exposing about 25,000 U.S, military personnel and thousands of contractors to the toxins.

It was shut down in 2009, however as of last year, 22 other burn pits were still in operation

Please read the entire story here

Posted in Burn Pits, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have a higher rate of debilitating respiratory illness than those deployed elsewhere

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on May 16, 2011

Shirley Wang WSJ May 16, 2011

Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have a higher rate of debilitating respiratory illness than those deployed elsewhere, according to a new study that bolsters concerns among some medical professionals and members of Congress about the potential harm to troops from toxic chemicals and dust in the Middle East.

The findings, which will be presented Wednesday at the International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in Denver, place renewed urgency on getting at the root of why some young, previously healthy soldiers have been returning from the Middle East complaining of symptoms including shortness of breath and dizziness. In many cases, the soldiers can no longer pass a required physical to continue with active duty.

There appears to be “a modest increase in the incidence of respiratory symptoms in those individuals who have returned from deployment to Southwest Asia,” said Craig Postlewaite, director of the Department of Defense’s Force Readiness and Health Assurance office.

Please read the entire article here

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Posted in Afghanistan, Iraq, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

What KBR really knew about the chemicals at Qarmat Ali

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on March 18, 2011

Thanks to MsSparky for letting us crosspost

In the ongoing legal battle being waged by several State National Guard Units, this video is pretty typical of what I’ve seen of KBR testimony about the role they played in exposing US and British soldiers, US and local civilians to deadly at . You can watch more disturbing deposition testimony HERE. I am listing the people giving depositions in the order they appear in this DoyleRaizner video.

As far as I’m concerned, someone or several someones need to be going to prison for murder, assault and treason!
1. – KBR engineer who led team conducting April 2003 environmental/safety assessment of Qarmat Ali – Testimony from :53-2:29 of video
2. – Former Corporate Health Safety & Environmental (HSE) Manager – Testimony from 2:45-3:16 of video
3. – KBR Chief Contract Negotiator – Testimony from 3:20-6:08 of video
4. – KBR Contract Attorney – Testimony from 6:09-7:00 of video
5. – KBR Head of Security – Testimony from 7:19-8:03 of video
6. – KBR Environmental Engineering Manager – Testimony 8:08-8:42 of video
7. Mary Wade – KBR Chief Contract Negotiator – Testimony from 8:49-9:46 of video
8. – Former Commander of the – Testimony from 9:47-10:52 – Lt. Col James Gentry, 52 died on November 25, 2009 of his illness contracted from exposure to hexavalent chromium at Qarmat Ali.

Yes, this is a re-post “back by popular demand.” I want to personally thank McKenna Long & Aldridge for introducing me to the website ChangeDetection.com, what a great web tool, thanks for sharing!

See the original at MsSparky

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

Senator Byron Dorgan Says DOD Response Still Falls Short on Sodium Dichromate Exposure

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on October 22, 2010

DORGAN: DOD IG REPORT CONFIRMS PENTAGON DROPPED THE BALL ON CHEMICAL EXPOSURE OF U.S. TROOPS IN IRAQ   See the video here

Read the IG Report here

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                            FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Friday                                                                                                                                      CONTACT: Barry E. Piatt

October 22, 2010                                                                                                                PHONE:   202-224-0577

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) said Friday a preliminary report of an investigation by the Department of Defense Inspector General confirms that the Pentagon dropped the ball in responding to the exposure of hundreds of U.S. troops to a deadly chemical in Iraq. Those failures left some exposed soldiers unaware that they had been exposed to the deadly chemical and without follow up health monitoring and treatment. Monitoring tests performed on other soldiers who were informed of their exposure were so inadequate that the agency that performed them now admits they have a “low level of confidence” in those tests.

A second and more detailed Inspector General’s report, originally scheduled to be released this month, has now been moved back to the end of the year, a development Dorgan said he finds “disappointing.”

The Senate Armed Services Committee and Dorgan requested IG investigations after he chaired hearings by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee (DPC), in June 2008 and August 2009. The hearings revealed that troops from Indiana, Oregon, South Carolina, and West Virginia were exposed to sodium dichromate, a known and highly potent carcinogen at the Qarmat Ali water treatment facility in Iraq. The DPC hearings revealed multiple failures by the contractor, KBR, and the Army’s failure to adequately monitor, test, and notify soldiers who may have been exposed of the health risks they may now face.

The IG is releasing two reports on its investigation, The first report was released in September. The second, expected to be a more detailed response to specific DPC concerns, was originally slated for release by late October. But the Department of Defense Inspector General now states a draft of that report won’t be available until the end of the year.

The first report provides no indication — seven years after the exposure – that the Army ever notified seven soldiers from the Army’s Third Infantry Division who secured the Qarmat Ali facility during hostilities that they had been exposed. It also confirms that the Army’s assessment of the health risks associated with exposure to sodium dichromate for soldiers at Qarmat Ali are not very reliable. In fact, the organization that performed these assessments, the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine (CHPPM), now says it has a “low level of confidence” in its test results for the overwhelming majority of those exposed.

Equally troubling, Dorgan said, is the report’s finding that the Department of Defense is refusing to provide information to Congress about the incident, because of a lawsuit to which it is not a party.

“I am very concerned about the findings we now have, and I am disappointed in the delayed release of Part II of this report. The IG’s investigation and its findings are very important to the lives of U.S. soldiers and workers who were at the site. Details and definitive findings will help us ensure accountability for this exposure and flawed follow up, but even more importantly, they will help ensure that all exposed soldiers receive appropriate notice and medical attention,” Dorgan said.

Posted in Cancer, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Iraq, Toxic Exposures | 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 »

BP’s Public Relations Propaganda supported by Department of Labor

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on June 22, 2010

OSHA Says Cleanup Workers Don’t Need Respirators

Hilda Solis and crew at the DoL again supporting Big Money

BP’s Contracted Oil Spill Workers are covered under the individual states Worker’s Comp programs ( which relieves them of  liability for this negligence.   The same way US Gov Contractor Companies are free to ignore all safety issues due to the DBA’s Exclusive Remedy.

Read more and sign the petition at Firedoglake

Nausea, vomiting, nosebleeds, headaches, and chest pain: these are just some of the identical symptoms reported by people working around BP’s oil in the Gulf Coast.

More than 100 people in the Gulf have fallen ill from BP’s oil, and that doesn’t include untold numbers of workers hiding their symptoms for fear of being fired by BP.

Yet despite clear evidence of illness from exposure to oil and dispersants, BP refuses to provide respirators to people cleaning up its disaster. Why? Because BP is afraid of the PR impact from images of people wearing this critical safety equipment in pictures and on TV.  BP even threatened to fire workers who choose to wear their own.

This is ridiculous. No amount of good PR images for BP is worth the health and lives of people battling BP’s oil in the Gulf Coast.

Posted in Department of Labor, Exclusive Remedy, Political Watch, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

America leaves Iraq a toxic legacy of dumped hazardous materials

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on June 14, 2010

Times Online Oliver August

NY Daily News

American troops going home from Iraq after seven painful years are leaving behind a legacy that is literally toxic.

An investigation by The Times in five Iraqi provinces has found that hazardous material from US bases is being dumped locally rather than sent back to America, in clear breach of Pentagon rules.

North and west of Baghdad, engine oil is leaking from 55-gallon drums into dusty ground, open acid canisters sit within easy reach of children, and discarded batteries lie close to irrigated farmland. A 2009 Pentagon document shown to The Times by a private contractor working with US soldiers mentions “an estimated 11 million pounds [5,000 tonnes] of hazardous waste” produced by American troops.

But even this figure appears to be only a partial estimate. BrigadierGeneral Kendall Cox, who is responsible for engineering and infrastructure in Iraq, told The Times yesterday that he was in the process of disposing of 14,500 tonnes of oil and soil contaminated with oil. “This has accumulated over seven years,” he said.

Iraqis who have come into contact with some of the material suffer from rashes and blistering on their hands and feet. They also complain of gagging and coughing. Rats near sites where waste was dumped have died and lie next to soiled containers.

Abu Saif, a Fallujah scrap dealer who handles US military surplus, lifted up his trouser legs and raised his hands to show blistered skin. “I got this when I worked on what was supposed to be American scrap metal,” he said. “I checked with a doctor and he said these are the effects of dangerous chemicals.”  Read the entire story here

Posted in Burn Pits, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

We Welcome the Medical Muckraker Blog

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on June 11, 2010

The Medical Muckracker is a new blog by Award Winning Medical and Science Writer Bryant Furlow.

Bryant has been researching and reporting on Medical Issues that effect military as well as contractors for many years.  At our request he recently researched and reported on the medical effects of the warzone Burn Pits  which was published in the Lancet Oncology. He has extensively researched  Traumatic Brain Injury, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Leishmaniasis, Acinetobacter baumannii, Toxic Exposures, and other issues effecting the military, contractors, and their families.

He started this new blog to expose wrongs and highlight under-reported public health stories that affect peoples’ lives but have been neglected by the mainstream media.

Bryants Evidence Based Medical Reporting will be be invaluable to all War Zone Contractors as you navigate your own medical diagnoses’ and confirm causation.

You will find Bryant’s work posted here often.  Check out Bryants Intro Page

Posted in Acinetobacter, Burn Pits, Cancer, Civilian Contractors, Defense Base Act Law and Procedure, Leishmaniasis, PTSD and TBI, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

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 »

UK troops join former US personnel in ‘toxic’ lawsuit

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on June 10, 2010

Hot off the UK Press from Brit Guy

By Rajini Vaidyanathan  Reporter, BBC Radio 4’s PM

Seven former British soldiers are suing an American defence firm, accusing it of exposing them to dangerous levels of toxic chemicals in Iraq.

The men were providing security at a water plant near Basra where sodium dichromate was discovered.

They claim that its operator, Kellog Brown and Root (KBR), failed to protect them from the substance.

The men join 98 US soldiers suing KBR. It denies the allegations, saying necessary precautions were taken.

“If I’d have known what I now know, I would not have gone on that site and I would not have made my men operate on that site,” says Andy Tosh.

The former regiment sergeant served in several combat zones but it is his time in Iraq in 2003 which has left him worried for his future.

“I’m used to risking my life or defending the right cause if you want to call it that. But again that’s against things you would expect.

“You join the military to do a job, not to get exposed to a toxic chemical through a contractor,” he adds.

The lawsuit he and his former colleagues have joined relates to the time they spent providing security at the Qarmat Ali water plant, which was pumping water to nearby oil wells.

‘Rashes and nosebleeds’

The plant was run by the defence contractor KBR, a company which until 2007 was part of the Halliburton oil corporation.

When the men began working on the site in May 2003 they noticed a reddish orange powder, some of it in bags, some of it in the drains and in the sand.

Initially they thought little of it, but Sgt Tosh says he became concerned when he and some of his team developed rashes, nosebleeds, and breathing problems after coming into contact with the substance.

“In August I had a severe rash on my forearms and hands. I’ve operated all over the world, from South America to the Arctic, I’ve never had any rash like that before,” he says.

“I was that concerned that I did go and see the station medical officer in Basra.”

A few months after the men arrived, notices started to appear around the plant, explaining that the coloured powder was in fact a highly toxic substance – sodium dichromate, the same chemical which was brought to attention in the film Erin Brockovich.

“At the time the warning signs went out around a pump room where this sodium dichromate had been stored in bags previously, and then they said that the orange powder…was actually sodium dichromate.

“Later on, they moved us from where we were operating, but not very far, only 100 metres away from the site.

“Once the warning signs went up, we never saw any US national guards again, we were told that there was nothing to worry about, it’s all fine.”

Sgt Tosh says he believes the US guards left in fear for their safety.

During the time he remained on the site he says he saw KBR workers there, many of them wearing protective clothing.

Chemical exposure?

Sodium dichromate is a highly carcinogenic substance, used as an anti-corrosive.

Medical experts say it can cause nosebleeds, damage to the septum, breathing problems and even in some cases lung cancer.

In the 36-page lawsuit, the soliders claim that KBR “disregarded and downplayed” the dangers of being exposed to the chemical.

In response, KBR says the sodium dichromate was left at Qarmat Ali by Iraqi workers under Saddam Hussein’s regime and that it took action to make the site safe.

It adds that it notified the US Army Corps of Engineers of the presence of the substance and its dangers.

A statement from KBR goes on to say: “Air sample tests performed by the US Army Center for Health Promotion Preventative Medicine and the British Military and KBR showed no dangerous levels of airborne chromium hexalvelant.”

The defence contractor further contends that no medical data support the claims that soldiers and KBR workers suffered from nosebleeds and respiratory problems caused by sodium dichromate.

This is something almost 100 soliders in the United States dispute.

Ninety-eight former members of the US military are already suing KBR, claiming they have contracted serious illnesses from their time at the plant.

“I have a laundry list of health problems,” explains Larry Roberta, who served with the Oregon National guard.

“I only have 60% lung capacity, I have very low testosterone, I have two types of inhalers, I can’t walk a block with passing over.

“To me there’s no doubt the cause is sodium dichromate. That was the turning point exactly, that was when my health went like a car over a cliff.”

Roberta says the orange dust was everywhere at the plant, and he even ended up eating it when it landed on his food.

“It’s just a real horrible, disgusting taste. It’s a real heavy metal taste. It’s like if you were to run outside and lick the lampost.”

Side-effects

The issue of chemical exposure at the Qarmat Ali water plant has been the subject of a number of hearings in the US Senate.

Dr Herman Gibb, an expert on sodium dichromate who gave evidence to those hearings, says it can take years for the side-effects of the chemical to manifest.

And that is the concern among the British troops who have filed the lawsuit.

“We just want our day in court,” explains John Gledhill, from Retford in Nottinghamshire.

“I want to know we can get some medical screening because there have been numerous national guardsmen over in America who were at the water treatment plant at the same time as us who’ve got symptoms.

“I’ve got no symptoms at the minute, but it’s a carcinogenic compound so we don’t know what the future holds.”

In a statement, the Ministry of Defence says it takes “very seriously” any suggestion that troops may have been exposed to levels of sodium dichromate in Iraq in 2003.

But it goes on: “This was examined at the time and there was no cause for alarm…the results of sampling showed that levels of sodium dichromate were significantly below UK government and US Army guidance levels and should not have had any effect on the patrolling guard force.

“Should any new evidence come to light, we will obviously consider it.”

The ex-servicemen on the lawsuit are also calling for an enquiry into the matter at Westminster.

“It’s a bit of a silent risk,” says Jim Garth. “It’s something we knew nothing about.”

“Granted it wasn’t a British installation, but we were tasked with guarding this installation by our superiors – and it looks like this could be a killer as well as the other things in a war zone that can kill you.” Original here

Posted in Burn Pits, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties and Missing, Defense Base Act Law and Procedure, Department of Labor, KBR, Toxic Exposures | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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 »

 
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