Julie Robotham / Sydney Morning Herald & Alan Silverleib / CNN & Thomas H. Maugh II and Mary Engel / Los Angeles Times & Kim Sengupta / The London Independent – 2008-12-01 00:25:18
Gulf War Syndrome Exists, Say Scientists
Julie Robotham Medical Editor / Sydney Morning Herald
(November 19, 2008) — GULF WAR syndrome is real, distinct from other illnesses and strongly linked – for the first time – to pesticides and medicines to protect against the effects of nerve gas, according to a definitive US investigation.
The report, which is at odds with Australian scientists’ findings, states “evidence strongly and consistently indicates that two Gulf War neurotoxic exposures are causally related to Gulf War illness”.
Those agents – pyridostigmine bromide pills, to protect against possible nerve gas attacks, and pesticides – were likely culprits because the intensity of symptoms increased in proportion to the quantity military personnel were exposed to, and because animal tests demonstrated real biological effects, according to the report, produced for the US Department of Veterans’ Affairs by a committee of prominent scientists.
Proximity to oil well fires, multiple vaccines, and low-level exposure to nerve toxins could not be ruled out as contributors to the syndrome, but were judged less persuasive. Other previously suspected factors were unlikely to have had any role in the syndrome. These included depleted uranium, infectious diseases and inhalation of sand and particulates in the air.
The 465-page document synthesises previous US studies on the health of nearly 700,000 veterans of the 1990-91 conflict, as well as research from US allies, including Australia.
Nearly a quarter of US veterans continued to suffer the effects of being deployed in the Gulf, it concluded, including persistent memory and concentration problems, pain, headaches, gut problems, and “other chronic abnormalities not explained by well-established diagnoses”. Gulf War syndrome was fundamentally different to illnesses typically suffered by soldiers returning from other conflicts, the scientists concluded.
They criticised a lack of adequate funding for research into Gulf War illness and the diversion of funds into studies on war-related stress and psychiatric conditions – which they said had little relevance to Gulf veterans.
Those conclusions contradict findings based on 1400 Australian Gulf veterans, which found high rates of mental illness. The Australian study, headed by the epidemiologist Malcolm Sim from Monash University and released in 2003, concluded veterans were more likely to report nerve symptoms if they had been immunised or exposed to solvents, repellents and insecticides during the campaign, but stopped short of confirming a new syndrome – on the grounds that the symptoms were not sufficiently distinctive.
Professor Sim was unavailable to comment on the US findings yesterday.
This story was found at:
Gulf War Illness Is Real, New Federal Report Says
Alan Silverleib / CNN
WASHINGTON (November 17, 2008) — An extensive federal report released Monday concludes that roughly one in four of the 697,000 U.S. veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War suffer from Gulf War illness.
A U.S. soldier wears protection against chemical weapons during the Gulf War in a February 1991 photo.
A U.S. soldier wears protection against chemical weapons during the Gulf War in a February 1991 photo.
That illness is a condition now identified as the likely consequence of exposure to toxic chemicals, including pesticides and a drug administered to protect troops against nerve gas.
The 452-page report states that “scientific evidence leaves no question that Gulf War illness is a real condition with real causes and serious consequences for affected veterans.”
The report, compiled by a panel of scientific experts and veterans serving on the congressionally mandated Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses, fails to identify any cure for the malady.
It also notes that few veterans afflicted with Gulf War illness have recovered over time.
“Today’s report brings to a close one of the darkest chapters in the legacy of the 1991 Gulf War,” said Anthony Hardie, a member of the committee and a member of the advocacy group Veterans of Modern Warfare.
“This is a bittersweet victory, [because] this is what Gulf War veterans have been saying all along,” Hardie said at a news conference in Washington. “Years were squandered by the federal government … trying to disprove that anything could be wrong with Gulf War veterans.”
The committee’s report, titled “Gulf War Illness and the Health of Gulf War Veterans,” was officially presented Monday to Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake.
Noting that overall funding for research into Gulf War illness has declined dramatically since 2001, it calls for a “renewed federal research commitment” to “identify effective treatments for Gulf War illness and address other priority Gulf War health issues.” Video Watch CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen report more on Gulf War illness »
According to the report, Gulf War illness is a “complex of multiple concurrent symptoms” that “typically includes persistent memory and concentration problems, chronic headaches, widespread pain, gastrointestinal problems, and other chronic abnormalities.”
The illness may also be potentially tied to higher rates of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease — among Gulf War veterans than veterans of other conflicts.
The illness is identified as the consequence of multiple “biological alterations” affecting the brain and nervous system. iReport.com: Do you know someone affected by Gulf War illness?
While it is sometimes difficult to issue a specific diagnosis of the disease, it is, according to the report, no longer difficult to identify a cause.
The report identifies two Gulf War “neurotoxic” exposures that “are causally associated with Gulf War illness.” The first is the ingestion of pyridostigmine bromide (PB) pills, given to protect troops from effects of nerve agents. The second is exposure to dangerous pesticides used during the conflict.
The report does not rule out other possible contributors to Gulf War illness — including low-level exposure to nerve agents and close proximity to oil well fires — though it fails to establish any clear link.
The report concludes there is no clear link between the illness and a veteran’s exposure to factors such as depleted uranium or an anthrax vaccine administered at the time.
“Gulf War illness isn’t some imaginary syndrome,” said Ken Robinson, the senior intelligence officer for the initial Department of Defense investigation into Gulf War illness in 1996-97.
“This is real, and it has devastated families. Now is the time to restore the funding cuts that have been made in the Veterans Administration. Our mission has to be to ensure that these veterans get help and become whole again.”
Robinson noted that soldiers in the field today are not at risk for Gulf War illness, because the military is no longer using the PB pills or pesticides that led to the illness in 1990 and 1991.
The report backs Robinson’s conclusion, noting that no problem similar to Gulf War illness has been discovered among veterans from the conflict in Bosnia in the 1990s or in the current engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The committee report also backs Robinson’s call for more effective treatments among veterans suffering from Gulf War illness.
Noting that overall funding for research into Gulf War illness has declined dramatically since 2001, it calls for a “renewed federal research commitment” to “identify effective treatments for Gulf War illness and address other priority Gulf War health issues.”
Specifically, the report calls for at least $60 million in new annual federal funding on research committed to improving the health of Gulf War veterans.
Report to Congress: Gulf War syndrome is real
Thomas H. Maugh II and Mary Engel / Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON (November 18, 2008) — A scientific panel chartered by Congress cites nerve gas drug and pesticides used during the conflict as being associated with veterans’ neurological problems.
Contradicting nearly two decades of government denials, a congressionally mandated scientific panel has concluded that Gulf War syndrome is real and still afflicts nearly a quarter of the 700,000 U.S. troops who served in the 1991 conflict.
The report cited two chemical exposures consistently associated with the disorder: the drug pyridostigmine bromide, given to troops to protect against nerve gas, and pesticides that were widely used – and often overused – to protect against sand flies and other pests.
“The extensive body of scientific research now available consistently indicates that Gulf War illness is real, that it is a result of neurotoxic exposures during Gulf War deployment, and that few veterans have recovered or substantially improved with time,” according to the report presented today to Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake.
The report vindicates hundreds of thousands of U.S. and allied veterans who have been reporting a variety of neurological problems – even as the government maintained that their symptoms were largely due to stress or other unknown causes.
“Recognition of the full extent of the illnesses suffered by these veterans of the conflict and the obligation owed them is long overdue,” said Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord David Craig, chief of the British defense staff during the war. “They are victims of the war as much as anyone struck by a bullet or shell.”
The panel, made up of scientists and veterans, called on Congress to appropriate $60 million per year to conduct research into finding a cure for the disorder.
“The tragedy here is that there are currently no treatments,” said the panel’s chair, James H. Binns, a former principal deputy assistant secretary of defense and a Vietnam veteran.
The reports of a Gulf War syndrome have percolated ever since the end of the war. Many veterans reported memory and concentration problems, persistent headaches, unexplained fatigue and widespread pain. Some also reported chronic digestive problems, respiratory symptoms and skin rashes.
The new report is the product of the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses, which was chartered by Congress in 1998 because many members felt that veterans were not receiving adequate care. Its 15 members, about two-thirds scientists and the rest veterans, were not appointed until January 2002.
Critics charged that the VA was reluctant to spend the research and treatment funds that such a committee might recommend.
Several reports had already been issued by the prestigious Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, concluding that there was little evidence to support existence of the syndrome.
Today’s report, however, concludes that those studies were inappropriately constrained by the VA.
The bulk of the evidence about the neurotoxic effects of the chemicals to which the soldiers were exposed comes from animal research, but the VA ordered the institute to consider only the much more limited human studies, skewing the results, the panel said.
“Everyone quotes the Institute of Medicine documents as meaning nothing’s going on here,” said Roberta F. White, associate dean of research at the Boston University School of Health and the panel’s scientific director. “Some people feel that the IOM reports have been permission to ignore these guys… . Veterans repeatedly find that their complaints are met with cynicism and a ‘blame the victim’ mentality that attributes their health problems to mental illness or non-physical factors.”
The panel urged VA to instruct the Institute of Medicine to redo its reports and take into consideration all the available animal research.
The new report says that scientific evidence “leaves no question that Gulf War illness is a real condition,” and it cites dozens of research studies that have identified “objective biological measures” that distinguish veterans with the illness from healthy controls.
The major causes of the disorder appear to be self-inflicted. Pyridostigmine bromide was given to hundreds of thousands of troops in the fear that the Iraqis would unleash chemical warfare against them.
The pesticides cited in the report were sprayed not only around living and dining areas, but also on tents and uniforms, White said.
Another, although probably lesser cause, was the U.S. demolition of Iraqi munitions near Khamisiyah, which may have exposed about 100,000 troops to nerve gases stored at the facility, according to the panel.
It cited a 2007 study by White that showed that the exposure could have caused lasting brain changes in troops and that the extent of the changes correlated with the degree of exposure.
The panel also noted that veterans have significantly higher rates of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis than other veterans and that troops who were downwind from Khamisiyah have died from brain cancer at twice the rate of other veterans.
Binns emphasized that the report was not written to yield recriminations about past actions.
“The importance … lies in what is done with it in the future,” he said. “It’s a blueprint for the new administration.”
Engel and Maugh are Times staff writers
Pills Blamed for Gulf War Syndrome
Kim Sengupta / The London Independent
LONDON (November 18, 2008) — A landmark investigation into the causes of Gulf War syndrome has concluded that the illness was caused by troops being given nerve gas pills and exposed to pesticides.
The study in the United States, mandated by Congress and described as one of the most wide-ranging undertaken on the subject, found that the most likely cause of the illness was pyridostigmine bromide (PB) in protection pills given to American and British troops to counter the Soman nerve gas Saddam Hussein could have used in the 1991 Gulf War. US soldiers were also affected by neurotoxins in pesticides extensively used in preparation for operations.
The findings led to immediate calls for official action on both sides of the Atlantic. In the UK, troops’ welfare groups said the British Government must do more to help those affected and carry out its own comprehensive research.
The British Government has insisted there is not enough scientific evidence so far to prove the existence of Gulf War syndrome. But it has agreed to offer war pensions to members of the forces who became ill after serving in the first Gulf war.
About 6,000 British service personnel, out of 55,000 mobilised for the conflict, are reported to be suffering from the symptoms of Gulf War syndrome. Many were medically discharged from the forces and have had to give up subsequent civilian jobs due to ill health. The Royal British Legion demanded that a payment of £10,000 be made to each veteran suffering from the ailment in compensation for a failure of duty of care.
The 450-page report, commissioned by an American veterans’ organisation, was handed to James Peake, the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs, yesterday in Washington. The researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health said it was unlikely that the syndrome was caused by other possible factors such as depleted uranium from US and British shells, the detonation of chemical weapons and fumes from blazing Kuwaiti oil wells.
In Britain, soldiers given the nerve-gas pill but not sent to the Gulf complained of suffering from the illness. The MoD said British troops had been given the same pills as their American counterparts. But a spokesman added that UK personnel had not been exposed to pesticides containing neurotoxins.
The US report found Gulf War illness “fundamentally differs” from stress-related syndromes described after other wars. It said: “Studies consistently indicate that Gulf War illness is not the result of combat or other stressors, and that Gulf War veterans have lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder than veterans of other wars.”
Sue Freeth, the director of welfare at the Royal British Legion, said: “For veterans, some of the mystery behind what has caused their conditions is over. For years, veterans have been told that their illnesses are psychological. This report concludes that this is not the case, but the result of exposures to very specific and harmful toxins while serving in the Gulf. The UK Government must not delay any further. It should build on these results and immediately co-operate with the US to find ways of treating these lamentable conditions.”
The Legion’s parliamentary adviser, Lord Morris of Manchester, who sat as a co-opted member on the Congressional committee of inquiry into the Gulf War, said: “US spending on research into Gulf War illnesses exceeds $400m, some £260m. That compares with £8.5m in the UK. That is why this report’s findings are so important.”
The MoD said last night: “The Medical Research Council’s 2003 report on Gulf veterans concluded that ‘there is no evidence from UK or international research for a single syndrome related specifically to service in the Gulf’. Any veteran in the UK who suffers from ill-health as a result of their service is compensated through the War Pensions and Armed Forces occupational pension scheme, regardless of the existence of Gulf War syndrome as a discrete pathological entity.”
Case study: ‘We had all been given these pills’
*Gary Williams was a 21-year-old sapper with the Royal Engineers when he was given his vaccination before being deployed for the Gulf War in April 1990. He spent three months in Saudi Arabia.
Two years later, he developed the symptoms which led to a medical discharge from the Army in 1994. He was not exposed to other possible causes, such as the fall-out from destruction of chemical weapons, depleted uranium and smoke from Kuwaiti oil wells. “Those of us suffering from this illness have often talked about what common experiences we had, and we had all been given these pills,” said Mr Williams. “People given this vaccination but never deployed also developed the same problems.”
Mr Williams, now 39, of Weaversham, Northwich, Cheshire, cannot work because of the recurring illness, which included stomach pains, headaches and debilitating fatigue. He is paid a military pension which is related to his health problems.
This is the “Agent Orange” for Gulf War Vets… I’ve suffered for years and all the VA does is throw money at me. While I will freely admit that it is much appreciated the plain fact is: money doesn’t fix everything and we Gulf War Vets want to know the truth about the chemicals used on the troops during the Gulf War.
— Posted by Malcolm Todd | 20.11.08, 21:32 GMT
What tremendous news that it has only taken 18 years or so to lend a crumb of legitimacy to this syndrome. Who can tell where this temporary lucidity in all this dementia may lead.
Who knows, in another 20 years or so many of us may well be basking in splendid posthumous apologies whilst bereaved relatives attend civic fetes sponsored by Hoffmann-La Roche Laboratories and DERA.
In the mean time, I for one have discovered that I can ameliorate the various physical and psychological traumas received during my service by polishing my campaign medals and inserting them right up my No-Fly Zone.
If, in the mean time, sarcasm and acerbic humour don’t do it for you, then please use and support agencies such as the RBL and NGVFA that have the greatness of spirit to campaign on behalf of such marginalised issues and forgotten voices.
— Posted by John Sims
“gulf war syndrome” is without doubt, one of the biggest governmental cover ups of all time.
— Posted by alvin pritchard | 19.11.08, 01:29 GMT
And these same Chemical Companies now make genetically food and try to tell us “its safe”.
— Posted by pc | 18.11.08, 22:11 GMT
Why is Gulf war Syndrome peculiar to Desert storm (1999) and not Operations Telic 1 to the present day ????????????
— Posted by Kev | 18.11.08, 19:32 GMT
Does this mean that the Armed Services are going to finaly take responsibilty for the ex-veterans who are still seeking help and does it also mean that Charities such as National Gulf Veterans & Families Association are going to get the recognition and support they so richly deserve…… or will they just be swept under the carpet and ignored. Please remember our Forgotten Heros.
— Posted by Wendy | 18.11.08, 14:37 GMT
I met a soldier who said that after leaving the army he would give the Gulf War syndrome a try to boost his pension.
What about those who take large doses of Pyridostigmine for years to relieve myasthenia gravis? They would not be without it.
— Posted by Mike | 18.11.08, 14:32 GMT
my name is jonathan i served in operation desert sheild/storm in the US navy aboard the USS midway and as soon i came home i had mental illness , cancer in my stmoach and lymp nodes near my kidneys and still receiving follow-up treament at my local VA was wondering if anyone has had simiular symptoms such as my self that was on a ship in the theater of operations?
— Posted by jonathan | 18.11.08, 10:33 GMT
“In Britain, soldiers given the nerve-gas pill but not sent to the Gulf complained of suffering from the illness. The MoD said British troops had been given the same pills as their American counterparts. But a spokesman added that UK personnel had not been exposed to pesticides containing neurotoxins.”
unfortunately most pharmceuticals are useless, they don’t really work; its all for profit and quite often they are harmful as well as useless, I implore you to read “what doctors don’t tell you” by Lynn McTaggort.
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