12 March 2008


CHICAGO (AFP) - Nearly two decades after veterans of the 1991 Gulf War
came home complaining of odd illnesses, enough evidence has been
gathered to determine that many of them were sickened by chemical
exposure, a study has concluded.

And some of the damage was likely caused by pills prescribed to
protect against the use of nerve gas and pesticides used to control
sand flies, according to the study published Monday in the Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences.

While the military has subsequently stopped using the pills, the
pesticides continue to be used in agriculture and for pest control in
homes and offices in the United States and around the globe.

"Enough studies have been conducted, and results shared, to be able to say
with considerable confidence that there is a link between chemical
exposure and chronic, multi-symptom health problems," said study
author Beatrice Golomb of the University of California San Diego's
school of medicine.

"Furthermore, the same chemicals affecting Gulf War veterans may be
involved in similar cases of unexplained, multi-symptom health
problems in the general population."

Golomb examined the results of scores of studies looking at the health
impact of the class of chemicals to which the veterans were exposed
either through pesticides, the anti-nerve gas pills or the demolition of
a weapons depot containing the nerve gas sarin.

Her study linked exposure to the chemicals to Gulf War syndrome, a
chronic health problem which affected between 26 and 32 percent of
deployed troops.

Symptoms routinely reported by these veterans include memory problems,
trouble sleeping, muscle or joint pain, fatigue, rashes and breathing

While the findings "do not imply that all illness in Gulf War
veterans" is the result of this exposure it "may account for some or
perhaps much of the excess illness seen in Gulf War veterans" she

Golomb also discovered why some veterans were sickened while others
with equal or greater chemical exposure were not affected.

"There is evidence that genetics have something to do with how a body
handles exposure to these chemicals," Golomb said.

"Some people are genetically less able to withstand these toxins and
evidence shows that these individuals have higher chance of suffering the
effects of exposure."

Some 250,000 service members were given the bromide pills as a
preventative measure. Those with the mutations that reduced their
ability to detoxify the pills were at significantly higher risk of
illness, Golomb found.

Previous studies have shown that this mutation is also linked to
increased rates of some neurological diseases, such as amyotrophic
lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig's disease.
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