Sustained Outrage

Toxic time bomb

That’s how’s Adam Lichtenheld describes sodium dichromate, a type of hexavalent chromium, a highly carcinogenic chemical made famous by Erin Brockovich.

As the Gazette has reported, up to 150 members of West Virginia’s National Guard may have been exposed to sodium dichromate in Iraq in 2003. The soldiers, as well as National Guard units from Indiana and Oregon, helped guard the Qarmat Ali water plant as KBR contractors repaired the facility.

You can read the Gazette’s coverage here, here and here.

Now, in No Contractor Left Behind Part I: KBR, the Pentagon, and the Soldiers Who Paid, the non-profit news organization has published the results of their own investigation into the aftermath of Qarmet Ali. Here’s how they see it:

Between April and September of 2003, the Indiana Guardsmen and their comrades from West Virginia and Oregon were subjected to a deadly health threat that would not be tolerated in any workplace in America.

Six years later, these once-vigorous soldiers now find themselves feeble and fraught with worry. Two have died from cancer. Another is in end-of-life hospice care. Dozens more suffer from frequent respiratory problems and chronic illnesses.

But only in the past year have most of these soldiers learned of their exposure to sodium dichromate — a poisonous chemical that has been shown to cause long-term health problems, including cancer. Their plight offers a scathing indictment of the United States Army and its largest private contractor, KBR Inc.

I’ll update with links to additional parts of’s series as they are published.

Update #1: Here’s a link to No Contractor Left Behind Part II: KBR’s Negligence.

As I’m typing, the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is holding a hearing on service-connected exposure (which will include testimony about Qarmat Ali).