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KBR knowingly exposed US troops to carcinogens, suit alleges

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U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh said Tuesday he would reintroduce legislation to create a medical registry for military personnel exposed to toxic chemicals following reports that Indiana National Guard troops were exposed to a toxin in Iraq.

The legislation would establish a registry to track military service members exposed to industrial toxins during wartime service, guaranteeing them access to priority care at Veterans Administration hospitals.

It would also authorize a scientific review of evidence linking exposure to adverse health effects.

Bayh, D-Ind., said in a prepared statement that he would reintroduce the legislation when Congress reconvenes in January.

"Our government has a responsibility to remove needless obstacles to care for soldiers exposed to potentially lethal quantities of toxic chemicals in service of their country," Bayh said. "We should be guided by our governments response to Agent Orange in Vietnam, when we changed our VA claims system so veterans placed at risk did not bear the burden of proof if health conditions developed later in life."

Bayh's statement followed a report Monday on CBS on Indiana National Guard troops that were assigned to guard the Qarmat Ali water pumping plant in Basrah, Iraq shortly after the U.S. invasion in 2003. Sixteen soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 152nd Infantry filed a federal lawsuit this month against defense contractor KBR Inc., saying its employees knowingly allowed them to be exposed to sodium dichromate, a known carcinogen, while guarding the water plant.

The chemical, used to remove pipe corrosion, is especially dangerous because it contains hexavalent chromium, which is known to cause birth defects and cancer, particularly lung cancer, according to the suit. The cancer can take years to develop.

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