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U.S military contractor KBR, a former subisidary of Halliburton, is facing a number of lawsuits over its activities in Iraq, and elsewhere.
KBR is the largest contractor for the United States Army and a top-ten contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense.
In one class-action suit Joshua Eller, a civilian who worked for the U.S. Air Force in 2006 at the Balad air force base northeast of Baghdad, alleges KBR 'knowingly and intentionally supplied to U.S. forces and other individuals food that was expired, spoiled, rotten, or that may have been contaminated with shrapnel, or other materials'.
KBR 'supplied water which was contaminated, untreated, and unsafe', Eller charged, detailing a number of examples.
He said Halliburton and KBR 'shipped ice served to U.S. forces in trucks that had been used to carry human remains and that still had traces of body fluids and putrefied remains.'
Acetaldehyde, Acrolien, Arsenic, Benzene, Carbon Monoxide, Ethylbenzene, Formaldehyde, Hydrogen Cyanide, Hydrogen Fluoride, Phosgene, Sulfur Dioxide, Sulfuric Acid, Toluene, Trichloroethane, Xylene. These are just some of the chemicals detected in smoke from the Balad Burn Pit, one of the many vast open pits spewing toxic plumes over Iraq and Afghanistan.
But not to worry; In “Just the Facts,” an information sheet for troops, the Department of Defense has stated that “the potential short- and long-term risks” from Balad “were estimated to be low.” The VA has just announced it will monitor reports of veterans' pit-related illness. But the DoD has yet to declassify old air sample reports or issue current findings.
The Pentagon’s fact sheet appeared after VAWatchdog.com linked to a memo showing that, as early as 2006, the DoD had known that the pit was “an acute health hazard.” In the memo, titled “Burn Pit Health Hazards,” Air Force Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight Commander Darrin Curtis wrote to authorities that he found it “amazing that the burn pit has been able to operate without restrictions over the past few years without significant engineering controls being put in place.” In an accompanying memo, James R. Elliott, Chief of Air Force Aeromedical Services, concurred that the pit’s fumes contained “known carcinogens” and “respiratory sensitizers” that posed a “chronic and acute health hazard to our troops and the local population.”
"Iraqi Crud" and "Black Goop"
This week, the same memo was boldly posted on Wikileaks, more widely publicizing toxic exposure and governmental neglect. The evidence is clear. The Balad Burn pit is a Big Bad Burn Pit which burns most anything that comes its way including medical waste, styrofoam, and plastic. Soldiers, contractors, foreign workers, and Iraqis suffer what troops call “Iraqi crud,” whose symptoms include a hacking cough and black phlegm that goes by the name “black goop.” According to Army Times reporter Kelley Kennedy, “Though military officials say there are no known long-term effects from exposure to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 100 service members have come forward to Military Times and Disabled American Veterans with strikingly similar symptoms: chronic bronchitis, asthma, sleep apnea, chronic coughs and allergy-like symptoms. Several also have cited heart problems, lymphoma and leukemia.” Kevin Wilkins, an Air Force reservist, died last year after returning home from a tour of Balad and Qatar; his wife blames the pit. A year after working at Balad as a nurse, Wilkens was admitted to the hospital for a relentless headache and vomiting, symptoms that began in country. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died a week later.
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) has taken up the cause. Six years into the war in Iraq, many bases are still without incinerators. In Afghanistan, U.S. bases have no incinerators. General David Petraeus claims the Pentagon is employing more incinerators, but that burn pits go with the territory: “There is and will continue to be a need for burn pits during contingency operations,” Petraeus wrote to Feingold.
Thousands of buildings at U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan have such poorly installed wiring that American troops face life-threatening risks, a top inspector for the Army says.
"It was horrible -- some of the worst electrical work I've ever seen," said Jim Childs, a master electrician and the top civilian expert in an Army safety survey. Childs told CNN that "with the buildings the way they are, we're playing Russian roulette."
Childs recently returned from Iraq, where he is taking part in a yearlong review aimed at correcting electrical hazards on U.S. bases. He told CNN that thousands of buildings in Iraq and Afghanistan are so badly wired that troops are at serious risk of death or injury.
He said problems are "everywhere" in Iraq, where 18 U.S. troops have died by electrocution since 2003. All deaths occurred in different circumstances and different locations, but many happened on U.S. bases being managed by various military contractors. The Army has has reopened investigations in at least five cases, according to Pentagon sources.