Thursday, October 14, 2004
For the first time, a government study concludes that veterans of Gulf War I were sickened by neurotoxins:
A federal panel of medical experts studying illnesses among veterans of the 1991 war in the Persian Gulf has broken with several earlier studies and concluded that many suffer from neurological damage caused by exposure to toxic chemicals, rejecting past findings that the ailments resulted mostly from wartime stress.
The report says possible sources include sarin, a nerve gas, from an Iraqi weapons depot blown up by American forces in 1991; a drug, pyridostigmine bromide, given to troops to protect against nerve gas; and pesticides used to protect soldiers in the region . . . .
All the chemicals cited in the new study belong to a group called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, which can cause a range of symptoms including pain, fatigue, diarrhea and cognitive impairment. Committee members said there might be minor changes in the report, a draft copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, but that the basic scientific findings would not change.
The committee says a search for medical treatments tailored to the new findings are "urgently needed" and recommends $60 million in federal funds for new research over the next four years. It says an estimated 100,000 Gulf War veterans, or about one in seven, suffer war-related health problems.
The report also says that understanding illnesses from the war will be critical in planning future military deployments and measures to improve domestic security. It calls for a reassessment of the use of pyridostigmine bromide . . . .
Among dozens of studies cited by the new report is a 1998 survey that looked at about 2,000 Kansas veterans, 1,548 of whom served in the gulf. It found that more than 30 percent of the gulf veterans report three or more such symptoms. The presence of multiple symptoms, their persistence for many years and the dominance of muscular and skeletal complaints all distinguish the ailments of gulf war veterans from the ailments of veterans of other wars, Dr. Golomb said.
The Pentagon admitted in 1997 that as many as 100,000 American service members might have been exposed to nerve gas when American combat engineers blew up the Kamisiyah ammunition depot in southern Iraq in March 1991, shortly after the war.