IG faults military, KBR for exposing troops to dangerous chemical

An Inspector General report has found that the Defense Department and contractor KBR failed to act quickly to protect servicemembers and civilians after discovering that they had been exposed to a hazardous chemical at a water-treatment plant in Iraq, according to a story in The Oregonian newspaper.

Dozens of National Guardsmen from Oregon and Indiana have sued KBR over their exposure to sodium dichromate, an anticorrosive compound of hexavalent chromium that can cause skin and breathing problems as well as 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."

KBR has previously denied knowingly exposing soldiers or contractors to health risks.

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In this series from August, 2010, as the American military presence in Iraq was being reduced, Stars and Stripes looked at the costs of the war through the eyes of Iraqis and Americans and asked: What difference did we really make?