WASHINGTON — A group of senators introduced legislation Tuesday that would kickstart medical studies of veterans who served at Karshi-Khanabad Air Base, known as K2, and were exposed to multiple cancer-causing toxins.
Veterans assigned to the post in southeastern Uzbekistan described a toxic environment there in the early 2000s, with pond water that glowed green and black sludge that oozed from the ground. Some veterans assigned to K2 testified to Congress in February, saying they were aware of hundreds of cases of cancer among K2 veterans. Thirty people have died, they said.
The Defense Department shared documents with Congress in July that revealed the Pentagon knew troops there were exposed to hazards. The Soviet base contained chemical weapons, enriched uranium and soil saturated with fuels and other solvents that formed a “black goo,” documents from 2001, 2002 and 2004 show.
Though there is mounting evidence to prove toxic exposure, the veterans remain ineligible for Department of Veterans Affairs benefits.
Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., who introduced the bill, said their legislation is the first step toward securing benefits.
The bill “lays the groundwork for ensuring that service members who were deployed to K2 in Uzbekistan are covered and compensated for exposure to toxic substances at the base,” Baldwin said.