.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Gulf War Syndrome: tied to exposure to Sarin Nerve Gas

An article by Ian Urbina in today's New York Times reports that new medical research indicates that Sarin Nerve Gas exposure in more than 100,000 U.S. troups in the First Persian Gulf War could have led to the symptoms that came to be called Gulf War Syndrome:

In March 1991, a few days after the end of the gulf war, American soldiers exploded two large caches of ammunition and missiles in Khamisiyah, Iraq. Some of the missiles contained the dangerous nerve gases sarin and cyclosarin. Based on wind patterns and the size of the plume, the Department of Defense has estimated that more than 100,000 American troops may have been exposed to at least small amounts of the gases.

When the roughly 700,000 deployed troops returned home, about one in seven began experiencing a mysterious set of ailments, often called gulf war illnesses, with problems including persistent fatigue, chronic headaches, joint pain and nausea. Those symptoms persist today for more than 150,000 of them, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than the number of troops exposed to the gases. Advocates for veterans have argued for more than a decade and a half that a link exists between many of these symptoms and the exposure that occurred in Khamisiyah, but evidence has been limited.

The study, financed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the first to use Pentagon data on potential exposure levels faced by the troops and magnetic resonance imaging to scan the brains of military personnel in the exposure zone. It found signs of brain changes that could be due to exposure, showing that troops who had been exposed at higher levels had about 5 percent less white matter than those who had little exposure.

This Time Magazine report from 1996 adds needed perspective to this story:

No Gas Used Against U.S. Troops After exhaustive research, congressional investigators have concluded there is no solid evidence that Iraq used nerve gas or mustard gas against U.S.-led troops during the Gulf War. Clinton recently signed a bill to provide aid for the thousands of veterans who have complained of mysterious illnesses since the end of the Gulf War, some of whom have linked their ailments to exposure to poison gas. Although low levels of chemicals that inhibit nerve functioning were found near battle sites, congressional analysts now say these trace amounts could well derive from pesticides, not lethal gas.

It has been sixteen years since the first Gulf War, during which time the Federal Government has only gradually allowed that over 100,000 United States troops were exposed by actions taken by our own military to extremely dangerous toxins whose effects on our veterans develop to this day. (What did the congressional investigators know about the Khamisiyah exposure in 1996?) What's ironic is that even as the United States went to war in Iraq in 2003, it was our own March 1991 demolition of Iraqi caches of sarin and cyclosarin munitions that was silently wreaking havoc on thousands of American lives here at home.

As understanding of the effects of depleted uranium munitions and the use of depleted uranium for armor coatings in the current war develops, this story seems to be repeating itself with current veterans of the war in Iraq.



Post a Comment

<< Home