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Gulf War Fallout

Study looks at link between chemical exposure and health of Gulf War veterans

FRIDAY, Sept. 27, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Gulf War veterans exposed to low levels of the chemical warfare agent sarin don't suffer more health problems than other veterans of that war.

That's the claim of a study in the September-October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"Our findings suggest that veterans who were possibly exposed to very low levels of chemical warfare agents do not differ from other deployed veterans on any health indicator, including self-reported medical diagnoses, hospitalization or disability," write the study authors.

The research was done by the Oregon Health and Sciences University's Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology. It was supported by a grant from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command.

Researchers did telephone interviews with 1,779 military personnel in three groups, including 653 veterans who served in the Khamisiyah area, where chemical weapons were destroyed.

The other groups included 610 veterans deployed during the Gulf War in an area with no chemical exposure, and 516 military personnel not deployed during the war.

All the veterans deployed during the Gulf War, whether exposed to chemicals or not, were more likely than those not deployed to have high blood pressure, heart disease, a slipped disc or a pinched nerve, the study says.

They were also more likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder and be hospitalized for depression; to report being in fair to poor health; and to say they had moderate to severe impairment. Though it didn't reach statistical significance, deployed veterans reported more cases of cancer than their non-deployed counterparts.

"Our study, along with other cross-sectional studies of (Gulf War) veterans, has been limited in the ability to form conclusions regarding the potential risk of cancer due to small sample size and limited number of cases of cancer," says researcher Linda A. McCauley.

She and her fellow researchers say their model assumes low levels of exposure to sarin, a nerve gas, for anyone within 50 kilometers of the chemical weapons destruction site.

More information

To learn more about Gulf War veterans and their health problems, go to this Web site about Gulf War illnesses

SOURCE: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, news release, September 2002
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