June 2, 2010 Liz Borkowski, MPH 0Comment

We’ve been following the story ( see here, here, and here) of the National Guard troops who were exposed to the carcinogen hexavalent chromium at the Qarmat Ali water plant in Iraq – which contracting giant KBR was tasked with rebuilding. National Guard soldiers from four states were stationed there; many of them suffered nosebleeds and other nasal problems while at the water plant in 2003, and have continued to suffer from respiratory problems and other chronic illnesses since returning home. Three have died of cancer. British soldiers and employees of KBR and the Iraqi Oil Company have experienced similar symptoms.

The Oregonian has been following the case of Oregon National Guard troops (complete coverage here) who have suffered from health problems after being stationed at Qarmat Ali. Most recently, The Oregonian’s Julie Sullivan reported that the group of Oregon veterans suing KBR is facing an uphill battle against an experienced legal team that already defeated a similar lawsuit by Indiana National Guard soldiers. Sullivan’s article considers both the Oregon National Guard members’ suit and the larger issue of “the unprecedented privatization of war.”

In other news:

National Academies: A new report from the Institute of Medicine states that “military service in the Persian Gulf War is a cause of post-traumatic stress disorder in some veterans and is also associated with multisymptom illness”; the data do not allow for conclusions about the agents that might cause the symptoms. The report calls for improving identification and treatment of multisymptom illness in Gulf War veterans.

Philadelphia Inquirer: A study by Philadelphia researchers, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that out of a sample of 102 Ground Zero workers, 22% had an impaired sense of smell and 74% suffered from a reduced ability to detect irritants.

Associated Press: After 10 workers at its China plants committed suicide and another three made suicide attempts, the Foxconn Technology Group has increased workers’ pay by 30%, saying the raise should reduce workers’ need for overtime and allow for more leisure time.

MedPage Today: A study of British civil servants, published in the European Heart Journal, found that those working 11- and 12-hour days faced a 56% greater risk of coronary death, nonfatal myocardial infarction, or angina. No heightened risk was found for workers logging just one or two extra hours of work per day.

Washington Post’s Federal Eye blog: Last month, more than 113 census takers were the victims of assaults or attacks.

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