Canadian Safety Reporter
Feb 4, 2019

Appeal over 'burn pits' illnesses rejected

By Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a bid by U.S. troops sickened by smoke from open-air pits used to burn waste in Iraq and Afghanistan to revive a lawsuit against defense contractors KBR and Halliburton.

The lawsuit claims former soldiers developed various cancers, neurological damage and other illnesses, often fatal, because of negligent operation of the pits.

The case centered on the liability of KBR and Halliburton over waste disposal services they provided the U.S. military in Afghanistan starting in 2001 and Iraq starting in 2003. KBR was part of Halliburton until 2007.

The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the consolidated lawsuits amounted to a “political question” that Congress and the president should resolve, not the courts.

The plaintiffs said they were harmed because the companies did not follow correct safety procedures and placed the pits too close to occupied areas. The contractor used the pits to dispose of plastics, tires, batteries, medical waste and other material that released airborne toxins when burned.