WASHINGTON — At least 48 Oregon guardsmen may have been poisoned by an airborne carcinogen while working in southern Iraq, and hundreds more may have been exposed when those troops returned to camp with the chemical on their boots, according to a report in The Oregonian on Friday.

The news comes just weeks after a CBS News report that KBR officials waited up to four months before warning the Army that troops were exposed to an airborne carcinogen.

Depositions from KBR employees obtained by the TV network detailed concerns about hexavalent chromium at a southern Iraq water plant as early as May 2003. The chemical, used there to prevent rust in water pipes, was left in open containers and circulated by the wind throughout the plant, according to The Oregonian.

Army officials did not know about the problem until August 2003, and responded by pulling Indiana guardsmen from their posts at the site. Last month, 16 Indiana guardsmen sued KBR, claiming it downplayed the danger of the site contamination.

At least one Indiana guardsman has died from lung cancer that may be related to the chemical exposure and several others now have tumors and rashes consistent with chromium poisoning, the network reported.

The Oregonian report said at least 233 state guardsmen stationed in the area at the time may have also suffered some level of exposure.

The Guard intends to contact all 420 members of the battalion — 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment — to inform them of the potential risk.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now