Armed forces of western countries are complaining of
mysterious battlefield ailments
such as Gulf War Syndrome or exposure to depleted uranium.


Soldiers are expressing concerns that they will become
vulnerable to respiratory illnesses.

Military to test Kabul's air quality
Afghanistan soldiers concerned about fecal contamination in the air they breathe
by Mike Blanchfield, Ottawa Citizen, Jan 3, 2004

The Canadian Forces plan to send a team of environmental and medical experts to Kabul to reassure soldiers about fecal-contaminated air they may be breathing in the Afghan capital, CanWest News Service has learned. A senior defence department official said the gesture is an attempt to dispel fears raised by reports of the air-quality concerns of the 2,000 Canadian soldiers serving on the NATO protection force for Afghanistan. Military Ombudsman Andre Marin first publicized concerns of the soldiers in an interview last month with CanWest News Service.

At the time, Marin said the troops in Afghanistan were concerned that they were breathing bad air consisting of up to 30 per cent noxious sustances from feces and the military medical brass were ignoring their concerns. In response, the Forces director of health policy, Colonel Ken Scott, wrote a scathing e-mail, widely circulated within the defence department, that criticized Marin for making the comments. Scott said there was no scientific evidence behind the soldiers' concerns, and that it was irresponsible to raise the issue. Now the Forces have decided to send a team of experts to Kabul to investigate the matter further and address the troops' concerns head-on. "It's to reassure the troops they've taken the steps into the health risks," said a senior defence department official who refused to be named. "They want to do a big town hall [meeting] in Kabul," he added.

The official said there has been "a complete about-face" in the thinking of defence department brass over how to handle health complaints of soldiers. "It shows the power of the press," the military official said. The Forces plan to have information sessions with soldiers explaining what has been done to test the air quality around Kabul, and how they plan to address the issue in the future.

Kabul has no modern sanitation or water-purification system. Feces flow in open sewers. In winter months, Kabulis burn garbage -- much of it fecal contaminated -- which helps distribute noxious substances in the air. German military health experts have estimated the fecal content of the air in and around the Kabul area could be as high as 30 per cent.

The Canadian Forces, as well as the armed forces of many other western countries, came under fire in the last decade after soldiers began complaining of mysterious battlefield ailments, such as Gulf War Syndrome or exposure to depleted uranium in the Balkans. Just last week, a report out of the former Yugoslavia linked bombs containing depleted uranium used in the past by NATO fighter jets with an increase in the risk of cancer among civilians.

In Afghanistan, Canadian troops told Marin in overwhelming numbers that the quality of the air in Kabul was their main concern. Marin visited the Canadian contingent in Camp Julien late last year. Many soldiers expressed concerns that they would become vulnerable to respiratory illnesses in later years and that their service records would not document the origin of their illnesses -- something that could have serious consequences on any future health benefits.

Forces fear feces (men defecate by sides of roads). National Post, Jan 14, 2004. Go to 12.Ministry of Peace (War) & 8.Classes of People & CANADA'S TRAUMATIZED SOLDIERS


Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~