- Gulf War syndrome
Gulf War syndrome (GWS) or Gulf War illness (GWI) is an
illnessreported by combat veteransof the 1991 Persian Gulf Wartypified by symptoms including immune systemdisorders and birth defects. It has not always been clear whether these symptoms were related to Gulf War service or the occurrence of illnesses in Gulf War veterans is higher than comparable populations.
Symptoms attributed to this syndrome have been wide-ranging, including chronic fatigue, loss of muscle control,
headaches, dizziness and loss of balance, memory problems, muscle and joint pain, indigestion, skin problems, shortness of breath, and even insulin resistance. Brain cancerdeaths, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis(commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, or motoneurone disease) and fibromyalgiaare now recognized by the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments as potentially connected to service during the Gulf War. [ [http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/255812_gulfvets16.html First Gulf War still claims lives] . Seattle Post-Intelligencer. January 16, 2006 ]
Since the end of the Gulf War, the United States Veteran Administration and the British Ministry of Defense have conducted numerous studies on Gulf War Veterans. The latest studies have determined that while the physical health of deployed veterans is similar to that of non-deployed veterans, there is an increase in 4 out of the 12 medical conditions reportedly associated with Gulf War syndrome (
fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, eczema, and dyspepsia. [Annals of Internal Medicine. Gulf War Veterans' Health: Medical Evaluation of a U.S. Cohort. June 7, 2005] ) They have also concluded that while mortality was significantly higher in deployed veterans, most of the increase was due to automobile accidents.
In 2008, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences published evidence suggesting that excess illnesses in Gulf War veterans can be explained in part by their exposure to
acetylcholinesterase inhibitors.Golomb, B. (2008) [http://www.pnas.org/content/105/11/4295.abstract "Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and Gulf War illnesses"] "Proc Natl Acad Sci"; [http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSN10593482 Reuters] ; [http://www.medpagetoday.com/PublicHealthPolicy/MilitaryMedicine/tb/8671 "MedPageToday.com"] ]
Medical problems by soldier nationality
About 30 percent of the 700,000 U.S. servicemen and women in the first Persian Gulf War have registered in the Gulf War Illness database set up by the American Legion. Some still suffer a baffling array of serious health impairing symptoms. [(Associated Press, August 12, 2006, free archived copy at: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0812-06.htm Retrieved
June 7, 2007)] The tables below apply only to coalition forces involved in combat. Since each nation's soldiers generally served in different geographic regions, epidemiologists are using these statistics to correlate effects with exposure to the different suspected causes.
U.S. and UK, with the highest rates of excess illness, are distinguished from the other nations by higher rates of
pesticideuse, use of anthrax vaccine, and somewhat higher rates of exposures to oil fire smokeand reported chemical alerts. France, with possibly the lowest illness rates, had lower rates of pesticide use, and no use of anthrax vaccine. [ [http://www1.va.gov/rac-gwvi/docs/Minutes_Dec2005.pdf Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses] December 12-13, 2005 Committee Meeting Minutes (page 78)] French troops also served to the North and West of all other combat troops, [ [http://www1.va.gov/rac-gwvi/docs/Minutes_Dec2005.pdf Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses] December 12-13, 2005 Committee Meeting Minutes (page 68)] away and upwind of major combat engagements.
Excess prevalence of general
symptoms: [ [http://www1.va.gov/rac-gwvi/docs/Minutes_Dec2005.pdf Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses] December 12-13, 2005 Committee Meeting Minutes (page 70)]
Excess prevalence of recognized medical conditions: [ [http://www1.va.gov/rac-gwvi/docs/Minutes_Dec2005.pdf Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses] December 12-13, 2005 Committee Meeting Minutes (page 71)]
At the December 2005 Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses meeting [http://www1.va.gov/rac-gwvi/docs/Minutes_Dec2005_Text.pdf Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses ] ] the following potential causes were still being considered, others which have been suggested through the years having been ruled out:
* combustion products from
* side-effects from the early 1990s'
diseases from parasites,
chemical weaponssuch as nerve gasor mustard gas(usually acetylcholinesterase inhibitors),
* and combinations of the above factors;
The following substances were found to be associated with increased GWI symptoms in combat soldiers, but have been ruled out except as confounding factors because the exposed non-combat cohort did not also develop symptoms:
pesticides and insect repellents (often acetylcholinesterase inhibitors), and
pyridostigmine bromide, an acetylcholinesterase inhibitorintended to protect against nerve agents. [ [http://www1.va.gov/rac-gwvi/docs/Minutes_Dec2005.pdf Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses] December 12-13, 2005 Committee Meeting Minutes]
Other causes suggested have apparently been eliminated from consideration by authorities:Fact|especially about the PTSD claim|date=August 2008
smokefrom oil well fires,
post-traumatic stress disorderand other psychological and psychosomaticcauses,Fact|date=August 2008
multiple chemical sensitivity,Fact|date=August 2008
*inhibited red-fuming nitric acid (IRFNA), a
rocket fuel/oxidizing agent used in SS-1 Scud (and derived) ballistic missiles, SA-2 Guideline surface-to-air missiles and possibly other pieces of Iraqimilitary technology, [ [http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/envs/scud_irfna.htm Topic: Scud Missile Attacks and Inhibited Red Fuming Nitric Acid Hazards ] ] and
* consumption of overheated
aspartamein diet soft drinks.
During the war, many oil wells were set on fire, and the smoke from those fires was inhaled by large numbers of soldiers, many of whom suffered acute
pulmonaryand other chronic effects, including asthmaand bronchitis. However, none of the firefighters who were assigned to the oil well fires encountering the smoke, and who didn't take part in combat, have had any GWI symptoms. [ [http://www1.va.gov/rac-gwvi/docs/Minutes_Dec2005.pdf Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses] December 12-13, 2005 Committee Meeting Minutes (pages 148, 154, 156)]
Operation Desert Storm, 41% of U.S. combat soldiers and 57-75% of UK combat soldiers were vaccinated against anthrax. [ [http://www1.va.gov/rac-gwvi/docs/Minutes_Dec2005.pdf Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses] December 12-13, 2005 Committee Meeting Minutes (page 73.)] The early 1990s version of the anthrax vaccinewas a source of several serious side effects including GWI symptoms. Like all vaccines, it often caused local skin reactions, some lasting for weeks or months. [ [http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d0192t.pdf GAO-01-92T Anthrax Vaccine: Preliminary Results of GAO's Survey of Guard/Reserve Pilots and Aircrew Members ] ] While the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) approved the vaccine, it never went through large scale clinical trials, unlike almost all other vaccines in the United States. [ [http://orig.clarionledger.com/news/0105/16/m11.html The Clarion-Ledger: Mississippi's News Source ] ]
One study found that deployed Gulf War Syndrome patients are significantly more likely to have antibodies to the experimental vaccine adjuvant
squalene(95 percent) than asymptomatic Gulf War veterans (0 percent; p<.001), [ Asa, P. B., Cao, Y. & Garry, R. F. (2000). Antibodies to squalene in Gulf War Syndrome. Experimental and Molecular Pathology 68, 55-64.] which raises the possibility that squalene was used experimentally (squalene is not approved for use as an adjuvant in the United States [ [http://fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dockets/80n0208/80n-0208-c000037-15-01-vol151.pdf AVIP Questions and Answers] Retrieved on 2008-5-13 ] ) in the Anthrax vaccine given to soldiers prior to deployment in the Gulf War to better induce immunity. The potential implication that the Anthrax vaccine given to soldiers immediately prior to the Gulf War was correlated with Gulf War Syndrome prompted the Department of Defense to task the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board (AFEB) to review Asa, Cao, & Garry's methods. The AFEB found several shortcomings that called into question the validity of the results; namely questionable positive controls, the unproven specificity of the ASA assay, and the potential that the researchers were not blind in their knowledge of patient illness/wellness. [ [http://fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dockets/80n0208/80n-0208-c000037-15-01-vol151.pdf "Review of Asa, Cao & Garry (2000)"] Retrieved on 2008-5-13]
Research into the vaccine used after 1997 suggests that specific vaccine lots used in immunization during the Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program program initiated in 1997 likely contain squalene because " the incidence of [anti-squalene antibodies] in personnel in the blinded study receiving these lots was 47% (8/17) compared to an incidence of 0% (0/8; P < 0.025) of the AVIP participants receiving other lots of vaccine." [ [http://www.avip2001.net/OfficialDocuments_files/Asa_squalene.pdf Antibodies to Squalene in Recipients of Anthrax Vaccine] Experimental and Molecular Pathology 73, 19–27, 2002]
Even after the war, troops that had never been deployed overseas, after receiving the anthrax vaccine, developed symptoms similar to those of Gulf War Syndrome. The Pentagon failed to report to Congress 20,000 cases where soldiers were hospitalized after receiving the vaccine between 1998 and 2000. [ [http://www.vermontguardian.com/dailies/122005/1220.shtml December 20, 2005 Headlines | Effects of Anthrax vaccine downplayed ] ] Despite repeated assurances that the vaccine was safe and necessary, a U.S. Federal Judge ruled that there was good cause to believe it was harmful, and he ordered the Pentagon to stop administering it in October 2004. [ [http://web.archive.org/web/20061111154918/http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/story.php?f=1-292925-1412120.php Marine Corps Times - News - More News ] ] The ban was lifted in February 2008 after the FDA re-examined and approved the drug again. Anthrax vaccine is the only substance suspected in Gulf War syndrome to which forced exposure has since been banned to protect troops from it. [ [http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2008/02/ap_anthrax_022908/ Judge rules military can require anthrax shot - Marine Corps News, news from Iraq - Marine Corps Times ] ]
On December 15, 2005, the Food and Drug Administration, released a Final Order finding that anthrax vaccine is safe and effective. [ [http://www.fda.gov/cber/rules/bvactoxanth.pdf http://www.fda.gov/cber/rules/bvactoxanth.pdf] ] [ [http://www.fda.gov/cber/rules/bvactox.pdf http://www.fda.gov/cber/rules/bvactox.pdf] ] [ [http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2003/NEW01001.html http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2003/NEW01001.html] ] Women who receive the vaccine get pregnant and deliver children at the same rates as unvaccinated women. [ [http://www.anthrax.mil/resource/qna/qaAll.asp?cID=321] ] Anthrax vaccination has no effect on pregnancy and birth rates or adverse birth outcomes. [ [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=11911758&query_hl=9&itool=pubmed_docsum Relationship between prepregnancy anthrax vaccinat... [JAMA. 2002 - PubMed Result ] ] however the anthrax vaccine currently used is not the same vaccine that was issued during the First Gulf War.
Many of the symptoms, other than low cancer incidence rates, of Gulf War syndrome are similar to the symptoms of
organophosphate, mustard gas, and nerve gaspoisoning.cite book |title=Epidemiology for Public Health Practice |last=Friis |first=Robert H. |coauthors=Thomas A. Sellers |year=2004 |publisher=Jones & Bartlett Publishers |isbn=0763731706 ] [cite book |title=A Review of the Scientific Literature as it Pertains to Gulf War Illnesses |last=Spektor |first=Dalia M. |coauthors=Richard A. Rettig, Lee H. Hilborne, Beatrice Alexandra Golomb, Grant N. Marshall, L. M. Davis, Cathy Donald Sherbourne, Naomi H. Harley, William S. Augerson, Gary Cecchine, United States Dept. of Defense |year=1998 |publisher=Rand Corporation |isbn=0833026801 ] Gulf War veterans were exposed to a number of sources of these compounds, including nerve gasand pesticides. [ [http://www.pan-uk.org/pex/pexartilces/Confs/2901000/OP+Gulf.htm] [http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=847&id=1311632004] ]
Over 125,000 U.S. troops and 9,000 UK troops were exposed to nerve gas and
mustard gaswhen an Iraqi depot in Khamisiyah, Iraq was bombed in 1991.
One of the most unusual events during the build-up and deployment of British forces into the desert of Saudi Arabia was the constant alarms from the NIAD detection systems deployed by all British forces in theatre. The NIAD is a chemical and biological detection system that is set-up some distance away from a deployed unit, and will set off an alarm automatically if an agent is detected. During the troop build-up, these detectors were set off on a large number of occasions, making the soldiers don their
respirators. Many reasons were given for the alarms, ranging from fumes from helicopters, fumes from passing jeeps, cigarette smoke and even deodorant worn by troops manning the NIAD posts. Although the NIAD had been deployed countless times in peacetime exercises in the years before the Gulf War, the large number of alarms was, to say the least, very unusual, and the reasons given were something of a joke among the troops. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3979975.stm BBC NEWS | Health | Sarin 'Gulf war syndrome cause' ] ]
Riegle Reportsaid that chemical alarms went off 18,000 times during the Gulf War. The United States did not have any biological agent detection capability during the Gulf War. After the air war started on January 16, 1991, coalition forces were chronically exposed to low (nonlethal) levels of chemical and biological agents released primarily by direct Iraqi attack via missiles, rockets, artillery, or aircraft munitionsand by fallout from allied bombings of Iraqi chemical warfare munitions facilities. Chemical detection units from the Czech Republic, France, and Britain confirmed chemical agents. French detection units detected chemical agents. Both Czech and French forces reported detections immediately to U.S. forces. U.S. forces detected, confirmed, and reported chemical agents; and U.S. soldiers were awarded medals for detecting chemical agents. [ [http://www.yirmeyahureview.com/archive/iraq/riegle_report.htm] Dead link|date=April 2008]
Some, including Richard Guthrie, an expert in
chemical warfareat Sussex University, have argued that a likely cause for the increase in birth defects was the Iraqi Army’s use of teratogenicmustard agents. Plaintiffs in a long-running class action lawsuit continue to assert that sulphur mustards might be responsible. [ [http://www.gulfwarvetlawsuit.com/ Pitts & Associates - GulfWarVetLawsuit.com - Index ] ] Both chemical agents, at the exposure levels required to cause such birth defects, would be likely to produce elevated levels of cancer not seen in Gulf War veterans.
In 1997, the US Government released an unclassified report that stated, "The US Intelligence Community (IC) has assessed that Iraq did not use chemical weapons during the Gulf war. However, based on a comprehensive review of intelligence information and relevant information made available by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), we conclude that chemical warfare (CW) agent was released as a result of US postwar demolition of rockets with chemical warheads in a bunker (called Bunker 73 by Iraq) and a pit in an area known as
Khamisiyah." See "Khamisiyah: A Historical Perspective on Related Intelligence" by the Persian Gulf War Illnesses Task Force (9 April 1997) [ [http://www.fas.org/irp/gulf/cia/970409/cia_wp.html Khamisiyah: A Historical Perspective on Related Intelligence ] ] Khanisiya was the location of an Iraqi chemical weapons storage facility bombed during the first Gulf War.
There is also speculation that residual chemical agents from the Iran-Iraq war caused environmental contamination and chronic exposure amongst the troops,Fact|date=February 2008 consistent with the increased observation of birth defects amongst the Iraqis bracketing the period of the Gulf War.Fact|date=February 2008
Depleted uranium(DU) was used in tank kinetic energy penetratorand autocannonrounds on a large scale for the first time in the Gulf War. DU munitions often burn when they impact a hard target, producing toxic combustionproducts. [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/du.htm Depleted Uranium ] ] The toxicity, effects, distribution, and exposure involved have all been the subject of a lengthy and complex debate.
uraniumis a heavy metal and chemical toxicant with nephrotoxic (kidney-damaging), [ [http://hps.org/publicinformation/ate/q754.html Health effects of uranium ] ] teratogenic(birth defect-causing), [cite journal |author=Hindin R, Brugge D, Panikkar B |title=Teratogenicity of depleted uranium aerosols: a review from an epidemiological perspective |journal=Environ Health |volume=4 |issue= |pages=17 |year= 2005|pmid=16124873 |doi=10.1186/1476-069X-4-17] [cite journal |author=Arfsten D, Still K, Ritchie G |title=A review of the effects of uranium and depleted uranium exposure on reproduction and fetal development |journal=Toxicol Ind Health |volume=17 |issue=5-10 |pages=180–91 |year=2001 |pmid=12539863 | doi = 10.1191/0748233701th111oa ] and potentially carcinogenic [ [http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/medsearch/Cancer/DOD122.shtml] Dead link|date=April 2008] properties, uranium exposure is associated with a variety of illnesses. [ [http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp150.html ATSDR - Toxicological Profile: Uranium ] ] The chemical toxicological hazard posed by uranium dwarfs its radiological hazard because it is only weakly radioactive, and depleted uranium even less so.
Early studies of depleted uranium
aerosolexposure assumed that uranium combustion product particles would quickly settle out of the air [ [http://www.deploymentlink.osd.mil/du_library/du_ii/du_ii_tabl1.htm] ] and thus could not affect populations more than a few kilometers from target areas, [cite journal |author=Mitsakou C, Eleftheriadis K, Housiadas C, Lazaridis M |title=Modeling of the dispersion of depleted uranium aerosol |journal=Health Phys |volume=84 |issue=4 |pages=538–44 |year=2003 |pmid=12705453 |doi=10.1097/00004032-200304000-00014] and that such particles, if inhaled, would remain undissolved in the lung for a great length of time and thus could be detected in urine. [cite journal |author=Horan P, Dietz L, Durakovic A |title=The quantitative analysis of depleted uranium isotopes in British, Canadian, and U.S. Gulf War veterans |journal=Mil Med |volume=167 |issue=8 |pages=620–7 |year=2002 |pmid=12188230] Uranylion contamination has been found on and around depleted uranium targets. [cite journal |author=Salbu B, Janssens K, Lind O, Proost K, Gijsels L, Danesi P |title=Oxidation states of uranium in depleted uranium particles from Kuwait |journal=J Environ Radioact |volume=78 |issue=2 |pages=125–35 |year=2005 |pmid=15511555 |doi=10.1016/j.jenvrad.2004.04.001]
DU has recently been recognized as a
neurotoxin.cite journal |author=Jiang G, Aschner M |title=Neurotoxicity of depleted uranium: reasons for increased concern |journal=Biol Trace Elem Res |volume=110 |issue=1 |pages=1–17 |year=2006 |pmid=16679544 | doi = 10.1385/BTER:110:1:1 ] In 2005, depleted uranium was shown to be a neurotoxin in rats. [cite journal |author=Anandan N, Shetty S, Patil K, Ibrahim A |title=Acute urinary retention caused by anterior urethral polyp |journal=Br J Urol |volume=69 |issue=3 |pages=321–2 |year=1992 |pmid=1568112]
In 2001, a study was published in Military Medicine that found DU in the urine of Gulf War veterans. [cite journal |author=Hodge S, Ejnik J, Squibb K, McDiarmid M, Morris E, Landauer M, McClain D |title=Detection of depleted uranium in biological samples from Gulf War veterans |journal=Mil Med |volume=166 |issue=12 Suppl |pages=69–70 |year=2001 |pmid=11778443] Another study, published by
Health Physicsin 2004, also showed DU in the urine of Gulf War veterans. [cite journal |author=Gwiazda R, Squibb K, McDiarmid M, Smith D |title=Detection of depleted uranium in urine of veterans from the 1991 Gulf War |journal=Health Phys |volume=86 |issue=1 |pages=12–8 |year=2004 |pmid=14695004 |doi=10.1097/00004032-200401000-00004] A study of UK veterans who thought they might have been exposed to DU showed aberrations in their white blood cell chromosomes. [http://www.cerrie.org/committee_papers/INFO_9-H.pdf] Mice immune cells exposed to uranium exhibit abnormalities. [cite journal |author=Wan B, Fleming J, Schultz T, Sayler G |title=In vitro immune toxicity of depleted uranium: effects on murine macrophages, CD4+ T cells, and gene expression profiles |journal=Environ Health Perspect |volume=114 |issue=1 |pages=85–91 |year=2006 |pmid=16393663]
A 2001 study of 15,000 February 1991 U.S.
Gulf Warcombat veterans and 15,000 control veterans found that the Gulf War veterans were 1.8 (fathers) to 2.8 (mothers) times more likely to have children with birth defects. [cite journal
author = Kang, H., "et al.'
year = 2001
url = http://www.annalsofepidemiology.org/article/PIIS1047279701002459/abstract
title = Pregnancy Outcomes Among U.S. Gulf War Veterans: A Population-Based Survey of 30,000 Veterans
journal = Annals of Epidemiology
volume = 11
issue = 7
pages = 504–511
pmid = 11557183 | doi = 10.1016/S1047-2797(01)00245-9 ] After examination of children's medical records two years later, the birth defect rate increased by more than 20%:
:"Dr. Kang found that male Gulf War veterans reported having infants with likely birth defects at twice the rate of non-veterans. Furthermore, female Gulf War veterans were almost three times more likely to report children with birth defects than their non-Gulf counterparts. The numbers changed somewhat with medical records verification. However, Dr. Kang and his colleagues concluded that the risk of birth defects in children of deployed male veterans still was about 2.2 times that of non-deployed veterans." [Department of Veterans Affairs (2003) [http://www1.va.gov/gulfwar/docs/GulfWarNov03.pdf "Q's & A's - New Information Regarding Birth Defects,"] "Gulf War Review" 12(1), p. 10.]
In a study of U.K. troops, "Overall, the risk of any malformation among pregnancies reported by men was 50% higher in Gulf War Veterans (GWV) compared with Non-GWVs." [Doyle, P., "et al." (2004) [http://ije.oupjournals.org/cgi/content/full/33/1/74 "Miscarriage, stillbirth and congenital malformation in the offspring of UK veterans of the first Gulf war,"] "International Journal of Epidemiology," 33(1), pp. 74-86; PMID 15075150.]
In 2005, uranium
metalworkers at a Bethlehem plant near Buffalo, New York, exposed to frequent occupational uranium inhalation risks, were alleged by non-scientific sources to have the same patterns of symptoms and illness as Gulf War Syndrome victims. [ [http://www.factsofwny.org/buff12162004.htm] [http://villagevoice.com/news/0525,lombardi,65154,5.html] ]
Balkanswar zone where depleted uranium was also used, an absence of problems is seen by some as evidence of DU munitions' safety. "Independent investigations by the World Health Organization, European Commission, European Parliament, United Nations Environment Programme, United Kingdom Royal Society, and the Health Council of the Netherlands all discounted any association between depleted uranium and leukemia or other medical problems." In Italy, controversy over the health risks associated with the use of DU continues, with a Senate investigation committee due to release its report into 'Balkan Syndrome' by the end of 2007. [cite web |author=Anes Alic|url=http://www.isn.ethz.ch/news/sw/details.cfm?id=18290|title=Depleted uranium, depleted health concerns|publisher=ISN Security Watch|date=October 29, 2007] Since then, there has been a resurgence of interest in the health effects of depleted uranium, especially since it has recently been linked with neurotoxicity.
Along with possible confounding problems caused by exposure to more than one of the substances listed above, comorbidities with infectious
diseases have also not been ruled out. Suspected diseases include leishmaniasis, from sandflybites, and fungal mycoplasmaparasites.
There are some who believe that Gulf War Syndrome is the result of a contagious
bacteria. There are anecdotal reports of improvement in some victims when treated with antibiotics. [ [http://www.trinicenter.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1236&mode=thread&order=1&thold=5] [http://www.paranoiamagazine.com/gulfbiowar.html] ]
Few would disagree that war is a stressful experience or that all wars carry psychological consequences. Indeed from as far back as the American Civil War there have been reports of the impact of stress on soldier’s emotional wellbeing in the form of
Soldier’s Heart. Many psychiatric conditions, including depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD) can present with physical as well as psychological symptoms. [ [http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6VB8-45WYTS8-2W&_user=121727&_coverDate=12%2F31%2F1987&_alid=583445705&_rdoc=3&_fmt=summary&_orig=search&_cdi=5920&_sort=d&_st=0&_docanchor=&_ct=4&_acct=C000010000&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=121727&md5=56c14f9afba145802bc2bad91994182e] [http://content2.apa.org/journals/ccp/62/6/1235] ] So could Gulf War Syndrome be a physical manifestation of a psychiatric illness?
We know that veterans who were diagnosed with PTSD following World War II, the wars in Vietnam and Lebanon, and the more recent Iraq war all reported poorer self-rated health, and more physical symptoms, independent of their physical injuries. [ [http://content2.apa.org/journals/ccp/68/2/258] [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=retrieve&db=pubmed&list_uids=10379722&dopt=Abstract] [http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/abstract/112447517/ABSTRACT] [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=pubmed&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=AbstractPlus&list_uids=3256371&query_hl=6&itool=pubmed_docsum] [http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/164/1/150?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=1&author1=Hoge&andorexacttitle=and&andorexacttitleabs=and&andorexactfulltext=and&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&volume=164&firstpage=150&resourcetype=HWCIT] .] What’s more, post-traumatic stress symptomology has been associated with increased symptom reporting among Persian Gulf war veterans too. [ [http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org/cgi/content/full/63/5/842?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&volume=63&firstpage=842&resourcetype=HWCIT] .] Such symptoms in the Gulf war veterans included memory loss, fatigued, confusion, gastrointestinal distress, muscle or joint pain and skin or mucous membrane lesions – all of them possible GWS symptoms as well.
Robert Haley, who first wrote about Gulf War Syndrome and is a critique of the “Stress Theory” of GWS has argued that the way in which we measure PTSD has resulted in a large number of false positives, [http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/146/9/695 Is Gulf War Syndrome Due to Stress? The Evidence Reexamined - Haley 146 (9): 695 - American Journal of Epidemiology ] ] and goes on to state that the true rate of PTSD in Gulf veterans in negligible.
What does the data show? The rates of PTSD in US and UK do vary considerably (from 2%-25%) but in both self-report and questionnaire based studies it was observed that Gulf war veterans were significantly more likely to report symptoms of PTSD. [ [http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/277/3/238?ijkey=d601d61d96651c1c5af689fb38b4bebbdf4d2d0b&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha] [http://www.kcl.ac.uk/kcmhr/information/publications.html] [http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6T1B-3VTRJMJ-3&_user=121727&_coverDate=01%2F16%2F1999&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000010000&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=121727&md5=e1c63d3a372bd36d8ec8e6b8d2e76364] ] Overall, what is clear is that the true rates of PTSD, measured by interview and not questionnaire, are indeed elevated. A British study compared disabled and non disabled Gulf veterans, and found that the rates more than doubled in the disabled veterans. [http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/325/7364/576 The mental health of UK Gulf war veterans: phase 2 of a two phase cohort study - Ismail et al. 325 (7364): 576 - BMJ ] ] And that kind of finding has been repeated several times.
But does that mean that GWS really is a manifestation of PTSD? No. In the same study the rate of PTSD was indeed increased in the sick gulf veterans, but the increase was from 1% to 3%. So 97% of this group do not have PTSD. And whilst twice as many veterans in the disabled group had a formal psychiatric disorder, the remaining 75% did not. Similarly, an American study also reported a link between serving in the Gulf, PTSD, depression and health problems. But again concede that this is unlikely to be the sole cause of Gulf war symptoms.
So PTSD is not the sole explanation of GWS. However, does this mean that stress plays no role in the aetiology of GWS? Perhaps not. The stress and stressors of the early phases of the Gulf war were very real to those preparing to enter Theatre. [http://www.journals.royalsoc.ac.uk/content/w86737h566q2347u/fulltext.html The Royal Society - Article ] ] Not only were the usual pre-combat stressors such as family adjustment and the uncertainty of tour length present, but the very real threat of chemical and biological weapons induced extreme fear in those deployed. Back in 1991 the threat of chemical and biological weapons was real, genuine and serious. It is possible that this prolonged stated of anxiety may have led to increased sensitivity to physical symptoms. After all, soldiers were intentionally made aware of the signs and symptoms of chemical and biological weapons and how to respond to them. Perhaps they became chronically sensitised. We do know that pre-combat stressors and stress symptoms were effective predictors of physical health post-deployment. [ [http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/section?content=a727082239&fulltext=713240928 Physical Health Symptoms in Peacekeepers: Has the Role of Deployment Stress Been Overrated? - Stress, Trauma, and Crisis: An International Journal ] ]
So there is little doubt that service in the Gulf war, perhaps like service in any war, is indeed associated with an increased risk of longer term psychological problems, and that these do overlap with the symptoms of GWS, but that they are insufficient to explain it. And finally, we should not under estimate the impact of spending up to six months in the build up to the war (“Desert Shield”) living under the very real threat of chemical and biological weapons.
There has been considerable controversy over whether or not Gulf War syndrome is a physical medical condition related to sufferers' Gulf War service (or relation to a Gulf War veteran). The following graphs illustrate the state of the controversy in 1998. Since then, as shown by the statistics above, the extent of the problem has become more pronounced. [cite book |title=The Status of Efforts to Identify Persian Gulf War Syndrome |last=Shays |first=Christopher |year=1999 |publisher=DIANE Publishing |isbn=0788178636]
Figure_1._Probability_of_hospitalization_for_unexplained_illness,_deployed_and_nondeployed_veterans,_from_Knoke_JD_and_Gray_GC_(1998) [http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol4no2/knoke.htm "Hospitalizations for Unexplained Illnesses among U.S. Veterans of the Persian Gulf War"] ] "This increased hospitalization risk of 11% for the deployed was a consequence of the recruiting for free clinical evaluations beginning in June 1994, with most of the resulting CCEP hospitalizations being for medical evaluation and not for clinical management. When CCEP participants were censored on
1 June 1994, deployed Gulf War veterans were not at greater risk than those not deployed." (San Diego, California: Naval Health Research Center).
Figure_2._Probability_of_hospitalization_for_unexplained_illness,_deployed_and_nondeployed_veterans._Adjusted_for_recruitment_effort_on_1_June,_1994,_from_Knoke_JD_and_Gray_GC_(1998) The slightly lower hospitalization risk for the deployed than for the nondeployed is consistent with a healthy service member effect; that is, those selected for deployment are, on average, slightly healthier than those not selected." (San Diego, California: Naval Health Research Center).
United States Veterans Affairs Secretary
Anthony Principi's panel found that pre-2005 studies suggested the veterans' illnesses are neurological and apparently are linked to exposure to neurotoxins, such as the nerve gas sarin, the anti-nerve gas drug pyridostigmine bromide, and pesticides that affect the nervous system.
"Research studies conducted since the war have consistently indicated that psychiatric illness, combat experience or other deployment-related stressors do not explain Gulf War veterans illnesses in the large majority of ill veterans," the review committee said.
In November, 2004, the anonymously-funded British inquiry headed by Lord Lloyd [ [http://www.lloyd-gwii.com/report.asp Gulf War Illness Public Inquiry ] ] concluded, for the first time, that thousands of UK and US Gulf War veterans were made ill by their service. The report claimed that Gulf veterans were twice as likely to suffer from ill health than if they had been deployed elsewhere, and that the illnesses suffered were the result of a combination of causes. These included multiple injections of vaccines, the use of organophosphate pesticides to spray tents, low level exposure to nerve gas, and the inhalation of
depleted uraniumdust. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4018603.stm] [http://www.guardian.co.uk/military/story/0,11816,1353230,00.html] ] The report was the first to suggest a direct link between military service in the Persian Gulf and illnesses suffered by veterans of that war and directly contradicts other theories which have suggested GWI is not a physical illness, but a response to the stresses of war.
Increases in the rate of
birth defects for children born to Gulf War veterans have been reported. A 2001 survey of 15,000 U.S. Gulf War combat veterans and 15,000 control veterans found that the Gulf War veterans were 1.8 (fathers) to 2.8 (mothers) times as likely to report having children with birth defects. [cite journal |author=Kang H, Magee C, Mahan C, Lee K, Murphy F, Jackson L, Matanoski G |title=Pregnancy outcomes among U.S. Gulf War veterans: a population-based survey of 30,000 veterans |journal=Ann Epidemiol |volume=11 |issue=7 |pages=504–11 |year=2001 |pmid=11557183 | doi = 10.1016/S1047-2797(01)00245-9 ]
Although not identifying Gulf War syndrome by name, in June 2003 the
High Court of England and Walesupheld a claim by Shaun Ruslingthat the depression, eczema, fatigue, nauseaand breathing problems that he experienced after returning from the Gulf Warwere attributed to his military service.
A 2004 British study comparing 24,000 Gulf War veterans to a control group of 18,000 men found that those who had taken part in the Gulf war have lower fertility and are 40 to 50% more likely to be unable to start a pregnancy. Among Gulf war soldiers, failure to conceive was 2.5% vs. 1.7% in the control group, and the rate of miscarriage was 3.4% vs. 2.3%. These differences are small but statistically significant. [ [http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996157 Gulf war veterans have fertility problems - 14 July 2004 - New Scientist ] ]
In January 2006, a study led by Melvin Blanchard and published by the "
Journal of Epidemiology", part of the "National Health Survey of Gulf War-Era Veterans and Their Families", stated that veterans deployed in the Persian Gulf War had nearly twice the prevalence of chronic multisymptom illness(CMI), a cluster of symptoms similar to a set of conditions often called Gulf War Syndrome. [ [http://record.wustl.edu/news/page/normal/6377.html Record: Study finds multisymptom condition is more prevalent among Persian Gulf vets ] ]
Similar syndromes have been seen as an after effect of other conflicts — for example, '
shell shock' after World War I, and " post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD)" after the Vietnam War. A review of the medical records of 15,000 American Civil Warsoldiers showed that "those who lost at least 5% of their company had a 51% increased risk of later development of cardiac, gastrointestinal, or nervous disease." [http://www.sciencemag.org/content/vol311/issue5763/r-samples.dtl#311/5763/927b]
A November 1996 article in the New England Journal of Medicine found no difference in death rates, hospitalization rates or self-reported symptoms between Persian Gulf veterans and non-Persian Gulf veterans. This article was a compilation of dozens of individual studies involving tens of thousands of veterans. The studies did find a statistically significant elevation in the number of traffic accidents suffered by Persian Gulf vets vs. non-Persian Gulf vets.
An April, 1998 article in Emerging Infectious Diseases found no increased rate of hospitalization and better health overall for veterans of the Persian Gulf War vs. Veterans who stayed home. James D. Knoke and Gregory C. Gray, Naval Health Research Center, San Diego, California, USA, Emerging Infectious Diseases 1998 Oct-Dec;4(4):707-9, Hospitalizations for unexplained illnesses among U.S. veterans of the Persian Gulf War. [ [http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol4no2/knoke.htm EID Vol. 4 No. 2: Hospitalizations for Unexplained Illnesses among U.S. Veterans of the Persian Gulf War ] ]
The US Institute of Medicine, released their conclusions in a September 2006 report further casting doubts on the validity of Gulf War Syndrome, writing that although roughly 30% of service men and women who served either have suffered or still suffer from symptoms, [ [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14801666/ Study: Gulf War syndrome doesn't exist - More health news - MSNBC.com ] ] no single cluster of symptoms that constitute a syndrome unique to Gulf War veterans has been identified. [ [http://www.iom.edu/?id=36966 Gulf War and Health: Volume 4. Health Effects of Serving in the Gulf War - Institute of Medicine ] ]
While an increase in birth defects has also been attributed to Gulf War Syndrome, a study on members of the Mississippi National Guard deployed to the Persian Gulf, conducted in 1996 found that of a total of 55 births, five children were born with birth defects. The study concluded that “The rate of birth defects of all types in children born to this group of veterans is similar to that expected for the general population.” [Committee to Review the Health Consequences of Services During the Persian War, Medical Follow-up Agency, Institute of Medicine, National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 1996] In another study of 75,000 births conducted by the
New England Journal of Medicine, 7.45% of the Gulf War veteran children were born with birth defects, compared to 7.59% for children of veterans not deployed in the Gulf [ Cowan, D. N., R. F. DeFraites, G.C. Gray, M.B. Goldenbaum, and S.M. Wishik, “The Risk of Birth Defects Among Children of Persian Gulf War Veterans,” New England Journal of Medicine 336 23, 1997]
Many U.S. veterans of the 2003
Iraq Warhave reported a range of serious health issues, including tumors, daily blood in urine and stool, sexual dysfunction, migraines, frequent muscle spasms, and other symptoms similar to the debilitating symptoms of "Gulf War Syndrome" reported by many veterans of the 1991 Gulf War, which some believe is related to the continued United States' use of radioactive depleted uranium. [ [http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0812-06.htm Is an Armament Sickening U.S. Soldiers? ] ]
New research from the United Kingdom, published in the medical journal the Lancet comparing the health of thousands of service personnel who served in Iraq with the health of thousands who did not, has stated::"If we had found an increase in morbidity after the Iraq war equivalent to that after the Gulf war we could say that these changes were not related to the occurrence of symptoms; all we can now say at this stage is that our new data add to the evidence that there was some relation between the specific pattern of medical countermeasures used in 1991 and ill health." [ [http://www.kcl.ac.uk/kcmhr/information/articles/horn_lancet.pdf Is there an Iraq war syndrome? Comparison of the health of UK service personnel after the Gulf and Iraq wars] .
The Lancet, May 16, 2006] After 10 years of research worldwide, overseen by the veterans' lawyers and funded by the UK's Legal Services Commission, no evidence was found which establishes any specific cause for the range of the health problems of over 2000 British troops who were seeking disability pensions for Gulf War Syndrome. [ [http://politics.guardian.co.uk/iraq/story/0,12956,1141363,00.html Gulf war syndrome: the legal case collapses] ]
Khamisiyahthe city in Iraq where a chemical weapons storage facility was located and which was bombed during the First Gulf War.
Beyond Treasonan 89-minute 2005 documentary that covers the Gulf War syndrome.
Siegwart Horst Günther
* [http://www.gulfwarvets.com/ American Gulf War Veterans Association]
* [http://www.ngwrc.org/ National Gulf War Resource Center]
* [http://www1.va.gov/rac-gwvi/ Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses]
* [http://www.umrc.net/ Uranium Medical Research Centre] , founded in 1997 by Dr. Asaf Durakovic, M.D., formerly Chief of Professional Clinical Services in the U.S. Army's 531st Medical Detachment during the Desert Shield phase of the 1991 Gulf War and head of the Veteran's Administration Nuclear
* [http://www.unep.org/pdf/iraq_ds_lowres.pdf Post Conflict Assessment Iraq] by the United Nations Environment Programme (PDF.)
* "Conspiracy Test: Gulf War Illness" investigative report by the
Discovery Channel- [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhvdkdMFVJQ part 1] , [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uErdz5NYmI4 part 2] , [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PD_hR__sHzk part 3] , [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBZ-ZpCExi8 part 4] , [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwFQJj8Zbdg part 5]
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