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 the war.
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 haven't seen.''
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 said.
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 doesn't
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 clinical evaluation./
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 stress, 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 (http//www.gulflink.osd.mil). 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 Defense) 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
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 squalene is
"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.
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
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
`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 to
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 (1-800-497-6261).
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.