Collecting garbage is one of the most dangerous jobs in Baghdad.

Nearly 500 garbage collectors have been killed since the Iraq war began. Many are young. Some are just teenagers.

They don’t empty garbage cans. Instead, they shovel loose trash and debris into garbage trucks. All the unbundled, discarded refuse wreaks havoc on Baghdad’s sewage system, clogging pipes and creating putrid pools of raw sewage on the streets, even in more affluent neighborhoods.

Garbage was one of the most vexing problems facing Capt. Tom Deierlein and his fellow soldiers.

In Adhamiya — a neighborhood that recently made headlines when a U.S. military brigade began building a 3-mile-long concrete wall around it — garbage workers faced such great danger that many wouldn’t go there at all. They could be shot by extremists for uncovering roadside bombs hidden in the piles of garbage, or simply for receiving their paychecks from U.S.-led forces.

“Garbage was six or seven feet high in some places,” recalled Capt. Drew Corbin, Deierlein’s friend. “It was as if New York had gone on strike.”

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