Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Pentagon knowingly exposed troops to cancer-causing chemicals, document shows
Published: Tuesday March 10, 2009
A newly leaked military document appears to show the Pentagon knowingly exposed US troops to toxic chemicals that cause cancer, while publicly downplaying the risks exposure might cause.
The document, written by an environmental engineering flight commander in December of 2006 and posted on Wikileaks (PDF) on Tuesday, details the risks posed to US troops in Iraq by burning garbage at a US airbase. It enumerates myriad risks posed by the practice and identifies various carcinogens released by incinerating waste in open-air pits.
Because of the difficulties in testing samples, investigators could not prove that chemicals exceeded military exposure guidelines. But a military document released last December found that chemicals routinely exceeded safe levels by twice to six times.
The leaked report was signed off by the chief for the Air Force's aeromedical services. Its subject is Balad Airbase, a large US military base about 70 kilometers north of Baghdad.
"In my professional opinion, the known carcinogens and respiratory sensitizers released into the atmosphere by the burn pit present both an acute and a chronic health hazard to our troops and the local population," Aeromedical chief Lt. Colonel James Elliott wrote.
According to the document, a US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine investigator said Balad's burn pit was "the worst environmental site I have ever personally visited," including "10 years working... clean-up for the Army."
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