Gulf War Illness Special Report
By Thomas D. Williams
This story Web-posted November 30, 1999; 11:30 a.m
Brain scans of some Persian Gulf War soldiers show damage by exposure to wartime chemicals,
a new Pentagon-sponsored study reveals. The study, combined with earlier related studies,
contradict claims by the Pentagon since the Gulf War that low-level chemical agents were
not common on battlefields, or, if they were evident, that they could not have been seriously
harmful to veterans. Many veterans have complained of persistent illnesses in the years since
It basically penetrates the denials that they were not sick from Gulf War-related exposures,
said Dr. James L. Fleckenstein, a professor of radiology at the University of Texas and one of
those responsible for the study. Now we can move from a point when Gulf War syndrome
was debated, to a time when Gulf War disease can be diagnosed, and hopefully an effective
treatment can be developed.'' It confirms what we have known for a long time, that there
were serious exposures to chemical warfare out there in the battlefields,'' said former
U.S. Sen. Donald W. Riegle Jr., a Michigan Democrats chairman of a Senate committee,
it was Riegle who first gathered evidence in 1993 and 1994 that Gulf War soldiers
had been exposed to chemical warfare.
The evidence revealed in part that hundreds of thousands of chemical alarms had
sounded after winds carried chemicals over battlefields during
allied bombings of Iraqi chemical weapons plants.
More than 100,000 of the 690,000 Gulf War veterans
who served at the height of the 1990-91 war, have
reported suffering from symptoms such as memory
loss, loss of balance, sleep disorders, depression,
exhaustion, joint pain, diarrhea and problems with
concentration. These symptoms, the studies say,
are consistent with veterans' exposures to
chemicals, including chemical
warfare, anti-chemical warfare drugs and
pesticides. A group of Navy Seabees
as well as some Army soldiers took special
magnetic resonance brain scans, which showed they
have 10 percent to 25 percent lower levels of a
certain chemical in the brain stem and gray matter
than healthy soldier-subjects, the new study
shows. The brain stem controls some of the
body's reflexes, and the gray matter controls
movement, memory and emotion.
A total of 46 service people were studied. The
collection of data took three to four months, and
was completed in September 1998. The Department of
defense is always interested in high quality
research that provides us information concerning
the complex set of health problems
being encountered by our Persian Gulf War
veterans,'' said James Turner, a pentagon
spokesman. We look forward to seeing the work in a
peer-reviewed scientific journal of stature. Until
then, it would be inappropriate for the department
to comment on an unreleased research paper we
He said the defense department is continuing to
care for active duty Gulf War veterans experiencing
problems they believe are associated with their
service during the war. So far, he said, the
department has provided special physical exams for
38,135 veterans and some family members.
Last month, a report from the Rand Corp., also funded by
the Pentagon, revealed that the use of the drug pyridostigmine bromide (PB) by 250,000 soldiers
during the Persian Gulf War ``cannot be ruled out''
as a cause of lingering illnesses in some veterans.
The PB pills were supplied to service members
by the military despite the experimental nature of
their use, and despite the fact that they were
effective only against soman gas and dangerous to
use in the face of potential sarin gas, accessible
to the Iraqis. Fleckenstein and Dr. Robert Haley, n
associate professor of internal medicine and chief
of epidemiology, both working at the University of
Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas were in
charge of the brain scan study.
It is a significant follow up to earlier studies by
Haley of Gulf War veterans, and was funded by the
U.S. Department of Defense and the Ross Perot
Foundation of Dallas.
Haley said the findings were
significant not only becauset hey show the veterans
were telling the truth about their exposure to
chemical warfare, but because their brain injuries
may be treatable. He said brain cells are not
missing in the patients examined, just damaged or
atrophied. Although there is no known treatment as
of yet, Haley added, there is medical research
underway to regenerate nerve cells. Some of these
veterans are profoundly disabled, some barely able
to drive to the store,'' Fleckenstein said.
``The findings suggest a substantial loss of brain cells
in the areas that could explain the veterans
symptoms. The results were released in a press
conference Tuesday at the 85th
Scientific Assembly of the Radiological Society of
North America. Twenty-two sick Gulf War U.S. Navy
veterans studied had lower levels of certain
chemicals in the brain than was detected in 18
healthy veterans. That study was consistent with a
second one of six Gulf War Army veterans. The
doctors doing the study were not told which
veterans were healthy or which had symptoms of
illness, Haley and Fleckenstein said. In earlier
research, Haley said, he and Texas research doctors
identified three primary symptoms indicating brain
impairment in sick Gulf War veterans.
Their disabilities were consistent with the
soldiers' exposures to chemical nerve gas, side
effects from PB tablets and insect repellants, and
pesticides used in soldiers' flea collars, the
earlier study said critics of the Pentagon quickly
reacted to the new study. Why is Dr. Haley able to
figure this out
when our government friends and their scientists
were unable to do so for so long?'' said retired
U.S. Army Maj. Barry Kapplan of Union. Kapplan, a
Gulf War veteran, spent tens of thousands of
dollars trying to cure a variety of illnesses he
and family members contracted and which he believes
were related to his war exposures. It's nine years
late and a whole bunch of medical bills short,'' he
What is this going to do for the veterans now? It's
so long after the Gulf War, it's hard to believe
veterans can still be treated. Riegle, the former
senator who now works for an international public
relations firm whose work includes health-related
issues, called the new study a chilling and
persuasive finding. It demonstrates again that the
Pentagon has worked hardest not to get to the full
truth. And, we have all those walking wounded who
need medical help and compensation, and they are
not getting it,'' Riegle said. These findings lend
new urgency to bring this issue back to the
forefront. I think the president has an obligation
to act as the commander in chief, if the Pentagon
DoD, RAND Release Study of Nerve Agent Drug
WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 1999 (GulfLINK) - The Department of Defense and
the RAND Corporation released today the
latest in a
series of reportson the potential health issues affecting Gulf War veterans.
The review examines the safety and effectiveness of pyridostigmine bromide, used
during the Gulf War as a pre-treatment to protect military personnel
from the nerve agent soman. The review of the scientific literature,
sponsored by the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War
Illnesses, was performed to identify hypotheses or theories that might
link the drug to illnesses in Gulf War veterans and to evaluate
evidence pertaining to these hypotheses.
"The purpose of this report is to examine an issue that has been of
great interest to veterans. This work breaks new ground and presents a
great deal of information that wasn't available to decision makers
during the Gulf War," said Bernard Rostker, the Pentagon's special
assistant responsible for overseeing the Defense Department's
investigations of Gulf War illnesses.
"It is the most thorough review of an important issue in the search
for answers to Gulf War illnesses." Pyridostigmine bromide is the only
known protection against the deadly nerve agent soman, which was
thought to be a serious threat during the Gulf War. All U.S. troops
received packets containing PB pills during the war and DoD estimates
that approximately 250,000 personnel took at least some PB.
The FDA approved pyridostigmine bromide in 1955 for use in treating
myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disease which causes muscle
weakness and fatigue. However, when FDA granted permission for use in
the Gulf as a pre-treatment for the nerve agent soman, the permission
was as an investigational new drug - this classification signifies
that it had not been approved for general commercial marketing as a
nerve agent pre-treatment. Rostker said the decision to use the drug
should be considered in an operational context.
"This is the first battlefield use of pyridostigmine bromide as a
pre-treatment drug. During Operation Desert Storm, the threat of the
use of nerve agents by Iraq was very high. Pyridostigmine bromide was
then - and still is today - the only known pre-treatment available to
prevent death from exposure to the nerve agent soman." According to
Rostker, during the Gulf War if troops had been exposed to soman
without the protective benefit of PB, the mortality rate of those
exposed would have been nearly 100 percent within a two-minute period.
After lengthy deliberation, permission to use the drug was granted by
the FDA in 1990. In conjunction with this approval, the Defense
Department agreed to some special requirements, including special
labeling, record keeping, and the provision of information "to medical
and paramedical personnel, and to individual service members for ...
products intended for self-administration."
Actual implementation was inconsistent, record keeping inadequate, and
information - prepared for distribution to the troops - not delivered.
These inconsistencies have fueled veterans' concerns, Rostker said.
"Very early on, some veterans have cited PB as a possible source for
their illnesses," he said. "And in response, a number of research
projects through the Research Working Group of the Persian Gulf
Veterans Coordinating Board - the Departments of Defense, Health and
Human Services and Veterans Affairs - were initiated. About half of
these studies are complete. In light of the on-going work, we believed
that a scientific review of the literature was needed to synthesize
the body of knowledge into a single source that can be used as a
foundation for work."
The nearly 400-page RAND report details seven hypotheses, providing
extensive data on each. With regard to the possible link between PB
use and Gulf War illnesses, the author, Dr. Beatrice Golomb, believes
many questions remain unanswered and calls for further research.
The effectiveness of PB in guarding against the effects of soman is
unclear, says Golomb. She suggests that the decision to use the
pre-treatment drug in the future should be carefully weighed. "The DoD
must always balance the risks of war, to include the potential for use
of deadly nerve agents such as soman with the possible side effects
from drugs such as PB," Rostker said. "Currently, PB is thought to be
an essential part of the medical protection our troops have for soman,
which is extremely lethal. However, PB does have known short-term side
effects and we need to continue our efforts to protect our troops
against deadly nerve agents."
The Defense Department will forward this report to the Institute of
Medicine, to further their work related to Gulf War veterans' health
concerns. As part of their charter, the Institute was charged to
review the scientific and medical literature regarding adverse health
effects associated with exposures during the Gulf War.
The review will include recommendations for additional scientific
studies to resolve areas of continued scientific uncertainties related
to the health consequences of Gulf War service.
Pyridostigmine bromide is one of the issues the Institute will review,
Rostker said. Any veteran with health concerns should contact the
DoD's Comprehensive Clinical Evaluation Program or the VA's Persian
Gulf Registry to schedule an exam. Both programs offer a comprehensive
To schedule an exam, veterans should contact the CCEP at (800)
796-9699 or the VA's Registry at (800) 749-8387. RAND is a non-profit
institution with a long history of independent research. This paper,
as well as the RAND literature reviews on
depleted uranium, and
oil well fires,
and a comprehensive review of
Military Use of Drugs Not Yet Approved by the FDA for CW/BW Defense
is posted on GulfLINK
The Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder Page is maintained by the PTSD Team at the VA Medical
Center in Phoenix, AZ.
GulfLINK: Persian Gulf
War Veterans Illnesses Home Page. (Sponsored by the Department of
Gulf War Veteran Resource Pages.
Information provided by a private (non-government) group.
Illegal vaccine link to Gulf war syndrome
Paul Brown, environment correspondent
Guardian Monday July 30, 2001
The illness known as Gulf war syndrome looks likely to have been
caused by an illegal vaccine "booster" given by the
Ministry of Defense to protect soldiers against biological weapons,
according to the results of a new series of tests. Scientists in the
United States found that symptoms of the illness were the same for
service personnel who received the injections whether or not they
served in the Gulf.
The common factor for the 275,000 British and US veterans
who are ill appears to be a substance called squalene,
allegedly used in injections to add to their potency. Such
an action would have been illegal. Squalene is not licensed
for use on either side of the Atlantic because of potential
side effects. Pam Asa and her team at the Tulane medical
school in Louisiana tested more than 300 military personnel
who were given vaccinations to go to the Gulf: 95% tested
positive for squalene antibodies. In addition veterans from
both sides of the Atlantic were tested, including 20 who
were given preparatory injections but who did not go to the
war. All 20 tested positive to squalene antibodies
The first non-deployed British sufferer to be tested, Anwen
Humphreys, was also found to have antibodies. Dr Asa said in her view
the fact that even non-deployed veterans were testing positive for
squalene provided conclusive evidence that vaccinations were a "major
cause" of the condition. It ruled out the alternative environmental
theories floated as causes of Gulf war syndrome. "I believe that those
people who were given vaccinations in the US and the UK were given
something they should not have been, probably in the anthrax vaccine.
The results need a thorough examination by the US and UK governments."
Squalene is classed as an ad juvant - a chemical which is added to a
vaccine to make it more combative.
It is a naturally occurring substance in the human body but
injecting it is illegal, and past scientific research in rats and mice
has found that it causes auto-immune disease. Consequently, squalene
in the form of a vaccine is unlicensed for human or veterinary use.
The evidence could be devastating for the Ministry of Defence which is
being sued for damages by 1,900 British veterans. If they show they
were injected with an illegal substance, the damages could be
astronomical. The ministry has refused toreveal what was in the
injections. Ms Humphreys, 39, from Dolgellau, north Wales, who suffers
typical symptoms of the syndrome - severe headaches, nausea, muscular
pain, joint swelling, short term memory loss and depression - said: "I
believe the MoD has used us like guinea pigs to see how effective
"There are no words to describe what they have done. It's just
medically, morally and ethically wrong." She says she feels "cheated"
by the MoD. "I was always one of these people who said that there is no
way they would experiment with our vaccinations." Ms Humphreys' story
is being told tonight on the Welsh-language current affairs programme,
Y Byd Ar Bedwar, (The World On Four), on S4C. The US defense department
has strongly denied Dr Asa's claims. Lewis Moonie, a junior minister
responsible for veterans, said: "To the best of my knowledge no
squalene was given to any member of the British forces at the time of
the Gulf war." The Ministry of Defence has so far refused to disclose
what was in the injections and defense scientists are carrying out
experiments on animals to see what effects the Gulf war injections
could have. The results will not be known until 2003.
- American Gulf War Veterans
- Gulf Veteran Resource Pages
- the first and primary source of information on the Web for Gulf War
Veterans suffering the mysterious collection of maladies known as Gulf
- Gulf War Veterans of
Wisconsin - assists Wisconsin residents affected by the
complexities of Gulf War related illnesses. Keeps the public informed
of issues that affect their veterans' well-being
- Gulf War Veterans
Heroes of the Desert Remembered - tribute page to soldiers,
sailors, airmen, and marines who gave their lives during Operations
Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
- Operation Desert Shield/Storm
Association - provides assistance to Gulf War Veterans, their
families, civilians and current Active Duty military members.
- Persian Gulf War
Veterans Coordinating Board
to Desert Storm Veterans - brief history of the conflict in the
Alex & Mary's Gulf War Diary - chronology of the main events in
Iraq's confrontation with the United States since the end of the 1991
- Desert Storm -
information on all aspects of the war, including POWs, the weapons,
and the soldiers.
- Desert-Storm.com -
information on machines, soldiers, and more.
Fog of War marking the anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of
Kuwait. From the Washington Post.
Fratricide at Umm Hajul - Desert Storm friendly fire incident and
The Gulf War
- Gulf War
- Gulf War
Chronicles - a day by day account.
- Gulf War
Gulf War, The
- information about the Gulf War from PBS in conjunction with
their 1996 Frontline television special.
- GulfLINK - Dept. of
Defense Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses. News,
medical information for Gulf War veterans, and reports on continuing
suspicions about Iraqi biological weapons.
Invasion of Kuwait: An Eyewitness Account - the author was
involved in the events leading up, during, and after the invasion by
- Mistakes of
the Gulf War - essay suggesting that miscalculations and mistakes
led to Saddam maintaining his regime.
- National Committee for
Missing and POWs Affairs - contains information on Kuwaiti POWs
and MIAs captured during the Gulf war.
- Operation Desert Storm
Debriefing Book - information on the Gulf War
- Pat's World
- aircraft battle damage photos from Desert Storm.
Target Baghdad - aviation photo gallery.
By TOM RAUM
WASHINGTON (AP) - A higher percentage of Gulf War veterans
are receiving disability compensation than veterans of any other
period, the Clintonadministration said Tuesday. The No. 1 complaint is knee injuries.
Of the 700,000 Gulf War veterans, roughly 16 percent are receiving
disability compensation, said Joseph Thompson, Veterans Affairs
undersecretary for benefits.
That compares with 8.6 percent of the remaining World War II
veterans, 5 percent of Korean veterans and 9.6 percent of Vietnam
era veterans, Thompson
told the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Benefit checks also go to
9.5 percent of veterans who served during peacetime. Of the total
202,272 Gulf War claims processed, Thompson said in prepared
testimony, only 11,407 - under 6 percent - have been for ``undiagnosed
illness. ''Veterans' groups and advocates for those suffering from
Gulf War ailments that the report continues an administration
practice of understating the problem.
Of the processed claimed for ``undiagnosed illness,'' 3,077 were
granted and 8,330 denied, Thompson said.
Most denials resulted from a finding of no disability, a diagnosis
that was not service-connected or a diagnosis that was service
connected,'' he said.
The number one service-connected condition claimed is ``impairment
of the knee,'' he said, followed by skeletal system disability, lumbosacral
strain, arthritis due to trauma, scars, hearing loss, hypertension,
intervertebral disc syndrome, tinnitus and osteoarthritis. Joy Ilem,
associate director of the Disabled American Veterans, suggested that
many physicians, reluctant to provide a report of ``undiagnosed
illness'' because of pressure within the Department of Veterans Affairs health
care system, enter a diagnosis they believe is a ``reasonable probability.''
`The plight of Persian Gulf War veterans suffering from unexplained
illnesses related to the service in the Persian Gulf continues to be
one of our foremost concerns,'' Ilem said. ``The bottom line is that
thousands of Gulf War veterans with serious physical illnesses and
conditions have been left unattended to,'' said William Frasure,
deputy director for the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Congress passed legislation in 1994 granting
Veterans Affairs the authority to compensate those
with difficult-to-diagnose and ill-defined illnesses.
VA has failed to implement the law, and thousands of Gulf War
veterans remain without compensation for these service-connected
disabilities,'' said Matthew Puglish, a representative of the
American Legion. A presidential panel looking into Gulf War
illnesses said in August that it
couldn't pinpoint causes of the ailments and recommended further
studies into whether genetic reasons caused some troops to get sick
while others did not.
CIA knew Iraqi dump held chemical weapons
The Central Intelligence Agency said Wednesday it had solid
intelligence in 1986 that Iraqi gas weapons were stored at a dump the
Defense Department says was blown up in the 1991 gulf war, possibly
exposing up to 20,000 U.S. troops to deadly nerve gas.
The disclosure contradicted three years of CIA
accounts of what it knew about poison-gas weapons in Iraq, including a
statement made six weeks ago by acting CIA Director George J. Tenet.
He said then that the its destruction by U.S. forces in March 1991.
A CIA official said the 1986 intelligence was only
recently found, so U.S. troops were not told before the war of the
possibility gas weapons were present.
We should have done better," the official said.
U.S. Army engineers blew up the chemical dump in 1991.
The Defense Department did not acknowledge until last
year the demolition at Kamisiyah might have exposed up to 20,000 U.S.
troops to traces of poison gas. agency had not specifically
identified the Kamisiyah weapons site as a chemical-weapons area prior
Date: Fri, 21 Dec 2001 15:34:32 -0800 Subject: [Health.mil]
Gulf War Vets - Where To Get Help
Active duty military personnel with questions or concerns about their
service in the Persian Gulf region: contact your commanding officer or
call the Department of Defense (DoD) Gulf War Veterans Hotline
Gulf War veterans with concerns about their health: contact the
nearest VA medical center. The telephone number can be found in the
local telephone directory under Department of Veterans Affairs in the
"U.S. Government" listings.
A Persian Gulf Registry examination will be offered. Treatment will
be provided to eligible veterans. Gulf War veterans in need of
marital/family counseling, contact the nearest VA medical center or VA
For additional information, call the VA Gulf War Information Helpline
at 1-800-PGW-VETS (1-800-749-8387). Gulf War veterans seeking
disability compensation for illnesses incurred in or aggravated by
military service: contact a Veterans Benefits Counselor at the nearest
VA regional office of health care facility or call the VA Gulf War
Information Helpline at 1-800-PGW-VETS (1-800-749-8387).
Gulf War veterans interested in learning about the wide range of
benefit programs administered by the VA: contact a Veterans Benefits
Counselor at the nearest VA regional office or health care facility or
call the VA Gulf War Information Helpline at 1-800-PGW-VETS
(1-800-749-8387). Individuals with first-hand information about
"incidents" that occurred in the theater of operations during the Gulf
War and that may be related to health problems experienced by
individuals who served in the War: call the DoD "Incidents" Hotline at
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