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Report Details Gulf War Illness Findings, Recommendations

Altered brain and nervous system tied to neurotoxic exposure

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 19 (HealthDay News) -- One-quarter of the 697,000 U.S. veterans of the 1991 Gulf War suffer from Gulf War illness as a direct result of neurotoxic exposure, according to a 450-page report released Nov. 17, Gulf War Illness and the Health of Gulf War Veterans: Scientific Findings and Recommendations.

In the evaluation of evidence supporting Gulf War-related exposures, the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses reviewed hundreds of studies of Gulf War veterans and extensive research in other human populations, as well as studies of toxic exposures in animal models, and government investigations related to events and exposures in the Gulf War.

The findings reveal strong and consistent evidence linking Gulf War illness with the use of pyridostigmine bromide pills, given to protect troops from the effects of nerve agents, and pesticide use during deployment. Studies have indicated alterations in brain structure and function, autonomic nervous system function, and neuroendocrine and immune function among these individuals. Symptoms of Gulf War illness range from persistent memory and concentration problems, chronic headaches, widespread pain and gastrointestinal problems, to other chronic abnormalities not explained by well-established diagnoses. The report notes that studies of these veterans have also found elevated rates of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and deaths from brain cancer.

"The Committee recognizes the vital importance of Congressional support, agency commitment and leadership, and adequate federal funding for achieving critical scientific objectives related to the health of Gulf War veterans and preventing similar problems in future deployments," the authors write.

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