Tags: Service members | chemicals | Iraq

Military to Be Tracked for Chemical Exposure in Iraq

Military to Be Tracked for Chemical Exposure in Iraq
U.S. Air Force airmen sit on the last Air Force flight out of Ali Air Base near Nasiriyah, Iraq. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters/Landov)

By    |   Thursday, 30 October 2014 08:53 AM

Service members and veterans who served in Iraq and may have been exposed to Saddam Hussein's decaying chemical warfare agents will now get medical attention and ongoing follow-up the Pentagon announced, according to The New York Times.

The decision comes in the wake of an investigation by the Times which found that U.S. personnel had been exposed to nerve and mustard agents – remnants of the Iraqi dictator's abandoned arsenal which he originally built with Western help.

The military kept the exposures secret, it says, because it didn't want Islamist insurgents operating in Iraq to know the old weapons could still be effective, the Times reported.

The military is aware of some 25 Americans who were exposed to the corroding munitions. Some of the weapons were found abandoned. Others were refashioned by the enemy to make roadside bombs.

In 2004, two Army bomb disposal troops handled a mustard shell at the site of a roadside bombing; in incidents that took place in 2006 and 2007 two Navy disposal technicians also handled mustard shells; and in 2008, members of an infantry platoon inhaled mustard vapor from a buried stockpile. Their requests for speedy medical evaluation were denied.

"It was a failure of leadership," Reid Wilbraham, a former squad leader told the Times in regard to the 2008 incident. "They told us to burn our uniforms and take showers."

Even when the Army knew troops were operating in zones where mustard shells were known to be present it took no measures to protect the soldiers. "We weren't prepared at all, not in the least," Wilbraham said. "It was a failure, a failure at all levels. I failed. Everybody failed. And failures need to be studied so they don't happen again," the Times reported.

How many Americans were exposed may never be known in part because some soldiers are unaware they came upon the chemical warfare agents.

The Army's Public Health Command plans to conduct a review of post deployment health surveys in an effort to identify possible incidences of exposure so that the affected individuals can be medically assessed, the Times reported.

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Service members and veterans who served in Iraq and may have been exposed to Saddam Hussein's decaying chemical warfare agents will now get medical attention and ongoing follow-up the Pentagon announced, according to The New York Times.
Service members, chemicals, Iraq
351
2014-53-30
Thursday, 30 October 2014 08:53 AM
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