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Home» News Coverage » Television & Radio » ABC affiliate WHAS-ABC 11 – Part 1& 2 – Soldiers Exposed to Toxic Chemical in Iraq

ABC affiliate WHAS-ABC 11 – Part 1& 2 – Soldiers Exposed to Toxic Chemical in Iraq

Toxic Tour of Duty: Part 1

by Melissa Swan of WHAS-ABC 11 (Louisville, KY)

Toxic Tour of Duty: Part 2

by Melissa Swan of WHAS-ABC 11 (Louisville, KY)

(WHAS11)–Russ Kimberling has nearly 2,000 images from Iraq on his computer.  They chronicle his duties there as a captain in the Indiana National Guard.

Kimberling now pours over the pictures wondering why he and other soldiers weren’t warned about a yellowish substance in thesand at Qarmat Ali, a water injection plant near Basrah.

Kimberling recently told me, “If it came up they would say don’t worry about it.  It’s a mild irritant.  It’s not a big deal.  You may get
a bloody nose.  It’s not a problem.”

He says he got that “don’t worry” message from workers with KBR, an American contractor headquartered in Houston, Texas and at the time owned by Halliburton.

KBR was restoring Iraqi oil fields.   The guard members were protecting the private contractors.

Clinton Hammack is a retired National Guard soldier from Tell city who says he wasn’t too concerned about what he calls “dirty sand.”  He says “You know I didn’t worry about it.  I did what I was there to do – take care of the contractor.”

The yellow substance in the sand was later confirmed to be sodium dichromate.  The Environmental Protection Agency calls it a human carcinogen.

It was used as an anti-corrosive at the Qarmat Ali plant before the Americans arrived.  It may have been spread by Iraqis to sabotage the site at the beginning of the American invasion.

Currently 51 Southern Indiana National Guard members have filed a federal lawsuit against KBR claiming the company knew about the chemical and endangered the soldiers’ health.

Kimberling says one day in Iraq he realized the yellow substance might be more than a mild irritant.

He says, “I remember that day when we jumped out, jumped out of the vehicle.  I’m kicking the ground around.  I’m kicking the ground and everyone’s in chemical gear all protected but not me or any of the soldiers.”

He says the people in the protective gear were managers from KBR.  He remembers thinking at the time, “They know something we don’t and it can’t be good.

Mike Doyle the attorney for the National Guard Members who have filed suit says, “That’s what’s kind of frustrating about it.  You have these fellows they have every reason to expect if KBR knew — and they did — there was this poison they’ll tell them about it.”

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