The substance later identified as sodium dichromate is regarded by the EPA as highly carcinogenic to humans. Frequent dust storms would pick up the chemical and create a toxic breathing environment for the troops.
"We would have severe nose bleeds, coughing up blood, a hard time breathing, nausea, and a burning sensation in the lungs and throat," Powell said. "After a few weeks of being at the facility, several personnel began getting lesions on their hands, arms, faces and nostril area."
Since returning from Iraq in 2004, Powell says he's faced difficulty getting treatment for persisting symptoms at a West Virginia VA Hospital because doctors "know little about sodium dichromate and the affects of it on the human body."
West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller said he is pursuing the matter with the Department of Veterans' Affairs. "There's a lack of thoroughness, a lack of concern, a lack of care," he said. "[The Army] chose not to warn about it or clean it up."
Rockefeller said he received a letter from Secretary of Veterans' Affiars Eric Shinseki, who promised a "complete exposure assessment and testing every year and every five years" for victims.
Thirty members of the West Virginia National Guard are suing defense contractor Kellogg Brown & Root, which was conducting repairs at Qarmat Ali, alleging the group was responsible for the chemical dust bags. KBR said in August that it wasn't responsible for the sodium dichromate at the site.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.