Washington, D.C. – Representative Stephen F. Lynch, Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, and Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, sent letters to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense seeking information related to press reports that U.S. servicemembers and special operations forces who deployed after the September 11, 2001, attacks were reportedly exposed to cancer-causing hazards.

“The Subcommittee is requesting information related to recent reports that U.S. servicemembers and special operations forces who deployed to Karshi-Khanabad Air Base (K-2) in Uzbekistan in the early years of the Global War on Terrorism may have been exposed to chemical and radioactive contamination, which is now causing them severe adverse health effects, including death,” Lynch and Maloney wrote.

Shortly after the September 11 attacks, U.S. forces were deployed to K-2—a former Soviet base—because of its close proximity to al Qaeda and Taliban targets in northern Afghanistan. 

According to a December 19, 2019, McClatchy report, while deployed there, U.S. forces were allegedly exposed to multiple chemical and radiological hazards, such as “pond water that glowed green” as well as “black goo oozing from the ground.”  These hazards were reportedly caused by a prior explosion at a missile storage facility; sources of abandoned fuel, solvents, and other chemicals; and “runoff from a CW [chemical weapons] decontamination site.”  

In a 2015 study, the U.S. Army found that veterans who deployed to K-2 were more than five times as likely to develop cancer—specifically “malignant neoplasms of lymphatic and hematopoietic tissue”—than their counterparts who deployed to South Korea.  The same study found that more than 60 veterans who deployed to K-2 between 2001 and 2005 “had been diagnosed with cancer or died from the disease.”

However, according to McClatchy, the Department of Veterans Affairs has not, to date, acknowledged a causal relationship between previous deployment to K-2 and a subsequent cancer diagnosis, causing consternation among veterans.  According to one retired special forces officer:  “After returning from combat years later, we are all coming down with various forms of cancer that the [Department of Veterans Affairs] is refusing to acknowledge.”  A retired U.S. Air Force veteran stated that this treatment felt like a betrayal and that “nobody wants to help with it.”

Lynch and Maloney requested both Departments submit responses to their questions by January 24, 2020.

Chairwoman Maloney is the author and lead sponsor of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act and the Never Forget the Heroes:  James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act to provide the support and medical care for 9/11 first responders, survivors, and families.

Chairman Lynch was elected as the Democratic primary candidate in a Special Election on September 11, 2001, and has traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan more than two-dozen times as a member of Congress.  Chairman Lynch is a leading national security voice in the House of Representatives and a staunch advocate for promoting the safety and security of American servicemembers.

Click here to read the letter to the Department of Defense.

Click here to read the letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs.