Burning Trash Made Us Sick: Troops

Hundreds sue contractors running burn pits

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 6, 2010 10:57 AM CDT

(Newser) – 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.

U.S. Army soldiers are seen through the haze of burning trash as they patrol in Baqouba, Iraq, Oct. 6, 2008.
U.S. Army soldiers are seen through the haze of burning trash as they patrol in Baqouba, Iraq, Oct. 6, 2008.   (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
A member of the US Army stands guard at a watch tower as trash burns outside the Combat Outpost Zerok, East Paktika province in Afghanistan, Friday, Sept. 25, 2009.
A member of the US Army stands guard at a watch tower as trash burns outside the Combat Outpost Zerok, East Paktika province in Afghanistan, Friday, Sept. 25, 2009.   (AP Photo/Dima Gavrysh)
British soldiers warm themselves up in the early morning by burning trash as they camp in a location in the desert to conduct counter-Taliban operations May 24, 2007 in Southern Helmand Province.
British soldiers warm themselves up in the early morning by burning trash as they camp in a location in the desert to conduct counter-Taliban operations May 24, 2007 in Southern Helmand Province.   (Getty Images)
Garbage burns in the market area in downtown November 14, 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq.
Garbage burns in the market area in downtown November 14, 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq.   (Getty Images)
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