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British Media – Sunday Express: British Servicemen to Sue American Engineering Firm

Daily Express

BRITISH servicemen are suing an American engineering firm for allegedly exposing them to cancer-causing toxins while they guarded a water plant in Iraq.

Despite warnings that a spate of nosebleeds among guards was caused by hexavalent chromium, engineering firm Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) allegedly covered up the “extreme ­danger”.

The firm blamed the conditions on dry desert air or a sand allergy, a court heard.

When a civilian medic raised concerns, he was flown out of the country, it was claimed.

KBR was then owned by Halliburton, the American conglomerate tasked with plugging the Deep Horizon oil well before the fatal explosion last month, which killed 11 workers.

Former RAF Sgt Andrew Tosh and six comrades from 26 Squadron had been deployed to the Qarmat water plant to guard civilian contractors.

The father-of-two is suffering from skin and chest problems he says were caused by hexavalent chromium.

Iraqi workers fleeing the allied invasion are thought to have deliberately scattered the substance, used as an anti-corrosive in pipes, around the site .

Even limited exposure can provoke lung, stomach, brain, prostate, bladder and bone cancers, which can take up to 20 years to develop . The RAF men have joined nearly 100 Americans in a class action law suit against KBR for gross negligence and legal ­malice.

 “If I knew then what I know now I would not have gone on the site and would not have taken my men in there,” said Mr Tosh, 44, from his home in Lincoln last night.

“I believe KBR management misled the militaries of the US and the UK.

“Too many of the men who served at Qarmat Ali were sick whilst there or became ill later. This cannot be coincidental.”

Texas-based KBR made ­billions of dollars through US government “no-bid contracts” in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

It received an extra bonus for the speedy restoration of Qarmat Ali plant which supplied water to oil fields near Basra.

Two US guards at the plant have died of cancers “attributable to their exposures in whole or in part to their exposures at Qarmat Ali”, alleged the lawsuit filed in West Virginia this week.

Many more have contracted illnesses ranging from persistent rashes and nose bleeds to tumours, it added.

Court papers say KBR’s south Iraq health safety environment officer was told about the contamination on site in May 2003 but nothing was done to protect workers or clean up the site .

By August, 60 percent of ­people at Qarmat Ali showed symptoms of acute poisoning, including continuous bloody noses (a symptom of hexavalent chromium poisoning known as “chrome nose”) spitting up blood, coughing, irritation of the nose, eyes, throat and lungs, and shortness of breath.

Ed Blacke, an American civilian medic based at Qarmat Ali, discovered bags of sodium dichromate, which contains hexavalent chromium, had been opened and their contents spread all over the plant.

He was flown out of Iraq after raising his concerns at a staff meeting.

KBR denied it was responsible for the presence of the toxic chemicals at the site and said it would “vigorously” defend all the cases.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “An Army Environmental Monitoring team conducted a survey in ­September 2003 and found that there was a limited risk that ­personnel had been exposed to some levels of sodium dichromate earlier in their duties.

“The personnel affected were ­identified and the fact of possible exposure was recorded in their medical records.”

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