Hundreds of service members and employees of Kellogg Brown & Root have filed lawsuits against the contractor, which burns vast amounts of trash on US bases in Afghanistan and Iraq, saying the thick smoke from the burn pits has made them sick. KBR operates more than two dozen of the pits, burning such toxic material as water bottles, paint, solvent, dead animals, and even medical waste, the Washington Post reports.
“You’d cough up black stuff, and you couldn’t seem to catch your breath. And your eyes were burning,” recalls one Air Force retiree. “I can still smell it to this very day.” He adds that the soldiers have a nickname for the syndrome: “Iraqi crud.” KBR says it ran the burn pits only at the military’s request. It’s unclear if the lawsuit will succeed, but it’s already caught the attention of Congress, which has convinced the military to put limits on the pits.