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Gulf War Legacy

We’ve all heard a lot about Gulf War Syndrome.  Usually it’s drug out by opponents of any military action, and while there is no doubt that there is something going on, there’s never been any real scientific explanation.  But there’s been an intriguing development using two things that the left usually ignores, facts and science.

For the first time, a study has found an increase in brain cancer deaths among Gulf War veterans who potentially were exposed to the nerve agent sarin by the destruction of Iraqi weapons in 1991.
About 100,000 of the 350,000 Army soldiers in the Persian Gulf may have been exposed to sarin and other chemical weapons after soldiers blew up two large ammunition caches in Khamisiyah, Iraq, in March 1991, according to a study commissioned by the military and performed by the Institute of Medicine, which advises the government on health policy.

At the time, the military didn’t believe the Iraqi rockets that were destroyed contained any chemical weapons, and no one showed signs of chemical warfare exposure, says Michael Kilpatrick, deputy director for the Deployment Health Support Directorate in the Department of Defense.

Later, however, United Nations inspectors found that some of the weapons contained sarin, a nerve agent that can cause convulsions and death. The military has since contacted about 300,000 veterans to let them know whether they may have been exposed.

Soldiers in the “hazard area” — a region that includes anywhere that winds might have carried chemical weapons — were about twice as likely as those outside it to die from brain cancer, according to the new article, published in the American Journal of Public Health.

So, how bad is it for those exposed?

Among unexposed soldiers, researchers found a brain cancer death rate of 12 deaths per 100,000 people between 1991 and 2000, says William Page, director of the study. Over the same period, researchers found 25 brain cancer deaths per 100,000 veterans who were exposed.

“It’s a doubling of risk, but it’s still a pretty small risk,” says Page, a senior program officer at the IOM.

So, it doesn’t go all the way towards providing an explanation, but it does show that there may indeed be some kind of physiological cause.

Posted by Lee on 07/28/05 at 12:41 PM in Science and Technology • Permalink

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