updated 3:58 p.m. EST, Tue December 9, 2008
Gulf War illness is real, new federal report says
Seventeen years after the Gulf war, a congressionally mandated committee has concluded that “Gulf war syndrome” is a legitimate condition that continues to affect one quarter of the nearly 700,000 US soldiers deployed in that war. In a report presented last month to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses said, “Scientific evidence leaves no question that Gulf War illness is a real condition with real causes and serious consequences for affected veterans.” We speak with a Gulf War vet who was a part of the committee and who himself is sick.
Guest: Anthony Hardie, Member of Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses and National Secretary and Legislative Chair of Veterans of Modern Warfare.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Seventeen years after the Gulf War, a congressionally mandated committee has concluded that Gulf War syndrome is a legitimate condition that continues to affect one quarter of the nearly 700,000 US soldiers deployed in that war. In a report presented last month to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses said, “Scientific evidence leaves no question that Gulf War illness is a real condition with real causes and serious consequences for affected veterans.”
The 450-page report details the serious longstanding and sometimes permanent neurotoxic damage seen in veterans of the 1991 war with Iraq. It concludes that the condition was primarily caused by overexposure to pesticides and a drug given to troops to protect against nerve gas.
The US government has long denied the existence of Gulf War syndrome, despite growing evidence and claims by veterans. Gulf War veterans were often told they were suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, and their symptoms were trivialized. The report says that no effective treatment has been found so far and emphasizes the need for further research.
AMY GOODMAN: Anthony Hardie is a veteran of the Gulf War, member of the Research Advisory Committee that authored the report. He is national secretary and legislative chair of Veterans of Modern Warfare and a former officer with the National Gulf War Resource Center, joining us from Madison, Wisconsin.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Anthony. You’re sick, as well?
ANTHONY HARDIE: Yes, that’s right. I’ve had health issues ever since—
AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us what you suffer from?
ANTHONY HARDIE: Absolutely. I’ve had health issues ever since being in the Gulf. First, about two-thirds of the group that I was with began to be ill from the pyridostigmine bromide, or the nerve agent protective pills that we took, and then, once in Kuwait, began having severe respiratory and sinus issues. Those have continued and have progressed into the kinds of chronic multi-symptom illness that I’m certainly far from unique. Between 175,000 and 210,000 of my fellow Gulf War veterans are suffering from the same kinds of symptoms and illness that I’m suffering from and many far worse than my situation.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, could you tell us a little bit about what the report concluded, because obviously there’s been a lot of debate over the years about the many possible causes of what came to be called as Gulf War syndrome?
ANTHONY HARDIE: Well, that’s right. Well, it was an exhaustive study of about—a survey of about 1,800 scientific studies. And I want to clarify, the report was written by the scientists on the committee, and there are five of us Gulf War veterans on the committee, and we assisted in reviewing the report, but it was a scientific report. And the study concluded that pyridostigmine bromide, or the nerve agent protective pills, and pesticides were the two, could be linked causally to the health effects of Gulf War veterans and a majority who are suffering from chronic multi-symptom illness.
It also determined that we could not rule out a number of other potential causes, including low-level nerve agent and chemical warfare agent exposure throughout the Gulf War and a number of other causes. It suggested that things like depleted uranium, while there are known health effects including cancers, was probably not the cause of the chronic multi-symptom illness affecting most Gulf War veterans, but it certainly didn’t rule out that depleted uranium has health effects of its own.
AMY GOODMAN: Were you surprised by any of the findings, Anthony Hardie? And talk about the significance of this being well over a dozen years since you were serving in the Gulf.
ANTHONY HARDIE: Well, seventeen years after the war, the report says what we Gulf War veterans have been saying all along. And that’s that we have health issues, that those health issues began during the Gulf, that they have progressed since then, that they have been largely unabated and that they’re continuing. So the report says in scientific terms what we’ve been saying all along.
The most disappointing thing is that current VA secretary, Dr. James Peake, said during his presentation that we neither deny nor trivialize the health issues of Gulf War veterans. Yet just a few days later, Secretary Peake and the federal VA referred the report, rather than jumping on its conclusions and making benefits and healthcare changes for Gulf War veterans, referred it to yet another committee, the Institute of Medicine, deciding that they needed further evidence.
And it’s awfully disappointing that still, seventeen years after the war, nearly 200,000 Gulf War veterans still remain ill and are not getting adequate healthcare from the federal VA. And as I testified before Congress last year, being seen is not the same thing as being treated, and to add further to that, treating symptoms is not the same thing as treating the disease.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And this pill that many of the soldiers took, were they forced to take this pill? Could they refuse it? And what were you told at the time when the military administered it?
ANTHONY HARDIE: That the pill was the pyridostigmine bromide pill, also known as the nerve agent protective pill, and it was to help us survive a nerve agent attack, helping to make sure that the atropine injectors that we had would be more successful in saving our lives if we were exposed to nerve agents.
I understand that throughout the Gulf War theater of operations, that it varied on how Gulf War veterans—excuse me – Gulf War troops were taking the pills. In my group, I think we were more of the typical type, in that we were mandated to take the pills. In fact, as a supervisor, I was required to physically watch my soldiers put the pill into their mouth, swallow it and make sure that they had taken it, again because there were—these measures were taken because there were significant side effects for so many of us. Again in my group, about two-thirds of us had pretty significant side effects at the time of taking the pill.
AMY GOODMAN: Anthony, did people resist?
ANTHONY HARDIE: Some were concerned about it, but it was—again, it was mandated, and it’s the military, and we do what we were told.
AMY GOODMAN: Were they approved by the FDA?
ANTHONY HARDIE: My understanding at the time was that there was a waiver given by the FDA to the US Department of Defense that waived informed consent, and we were told that at the time, told that it was an experimental drug, but that we were still required to take it. And experimental in the sense of—
JUAN GONZALEZ: And the immediate effects that you had at the time?
ANTHONY HARDIE: Like we were told we would have the symptoms of low-level nerve agent exposure, so watery eyes, respiratory issues, runny nose, diarrhea, upset stomach, tremors, fatigue, all those sorts of things, and feeling very—just simply feeling very ill.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us what the Kuwaiti cough is, Anthony Hardie?
ANTHONY HARDIE: Sure, that’s a nickname that some of us Gulf War veterans gave our cough that we developed while over in the Gulf and then came back with. I coughed up black sputum for the last two months that I was there. I was excited when the war was over. I could start running again, began running and breathing in that black oil well fire smoke that colored my sputum black, by coughing up significant chunks of—large chunks about the size of a large gumball from my lungs. I believe now that those are probably pieces of lung tissue from exposure to chemical warfare agents and then colored black from the oil well fire smoke as well. But many of us came back, and we had this cough continued thereafter. And while running, then we would use our asthma inhalers—determined later that we didn’t have—we did not have asthma, but joked that that was our—you know, sort of our medal, as well, for the Kuwait battle.
AMY GOODMAN: Anthony, we just have twenty seconds, and I wanted to know, with the report out, what do you want to see happen right now?
ANTHONY HARDIE: We need to see, most of all, treatment, effective treatment for Gulf War veterans. It’s been seventeen years, and that’s an awful long time to wait for effective treatment. For those who are not getting compensation, of course they need to be compensated. But most importantly, treating those who are ill.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you for being with us. Anthony Hardie, joining us from Madison, Wisconsin—
ANTHONY HARDIE: Thank you very much.
AMY GOODMAN: —member of the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses, just came out with its report, and national secretary and legislative chair of Veterans of Modern Warfare.
By Dan Moffett
Palm Beach Post Editorial Writer
Sunday, November 23, 2008
For more than a decade, the government told hundreds of thousands of Gulf War veterans that their complaints about neurological illness were unfounded. The government attributed the symptoms - memory loss, anxiety, fatigue, nausea, joint pain, dizziness, diarrhea, breathing difficulties - to psychological issues. It was all in their heads.
Veterans of other wars had heard this before. World War I vets were told that their lung damage had nothing to do with poison gases they breathed on the battlefield. World War II and Korean vets heard that exposure to radiation did not cause the cancers they developed years later. And, of course, exposure to Agent Orange did no long-term damage to Vietnam troops.
The government's first response is always to suggest that some veterans just weren't tough enough or had underlying psychological problems. For the government, a diagnosis of battle fatigue or battlefield stress was preferable to admissions of culpability or ignorance. Legions of combat vets died while waiting for straight answers about their health problems. The complaints about Gulf War syndrome appeared to be fading the same way until 2002. That year, researchers who looked at 2.5 million veterans found that Gulf War troops were nearly twice as likely to develop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - Lou Gehrig's disease - as those who served elsewhere. The results stunned scientists who expected to find fewer cases of the disease in a population of physically fit young people receiving excellent medical care. After the report, Congress mandated a comprehensive study to determine once and for all whether Gulf War syndrome was a manifestation of the mind or the result of a poisoned body. Seventeen years since the war began, the results finally have come in: Gulf War syndrome is a "real condition," and roughly one in four of the 697,000 veterans from that war suffers lifelong neurological damage from it. The researchers cited two likely causes: the drug pyridostigmine bromide, or PB, which soldiers took as protection against nerve gas; and pesticides that were widely used in Iraq and Kuwait. No similar symptoms have surfaced among troops in other theaters. The Food and Drug Administration had not approved the small, white PB pills as an anti-nerve agent in 1991 but gave the military a waiver. Veterans long have suspected the pills, but the government dismissed the assertions as fantasy. After all, billions in disability benefits hung in the balance. The Department of Veterans Affairs is one more expensive, tragic mess the Obama administration soon will inherit. But the effects of Gulf War illness are irreversible. Nobody gets better; most every victim gets worse. Many can't work. Anthony Hardie, who participated in the study, called the 450-page report "a bittersweet victory." While it vindicates victims and validates their complaints, it also documents the government's incompetence and insensitivity. "Years were squandered by the federal government," Mr. Hardie says, "trying to disprove that anything could be wrong with Gulf War veterans." The report lamented that "many had the misfortune of developing lasting health consequences that were poorly understood and, for too long, denied or trivialized." It is a familiar shame. The delusion is also familiar. We like to think that we honor our veterans for their service, but the national definition of honor doesn't include repairing the damage they bring home.
The government's first response is always to suggest that some veterans just weren't tough enough or had underlying psychological problems. For the government, a diagnosis of battle fatigue or battlefield stress was preferable to admissions of culpability or ignorance. Legions of combat vets died while waiting for straight answers about their health problems. The complaints about Gulf War syndrome appeared to be fading the same way until 2002.
That year, researchers who looked at 2.5 million veterans found that Gulf War troops were nearly twice as likely to develop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - Lou Gehrig's disease - as those who served elsewhere. The results stunned scientists who expected to find fewer cases of the disease in a population of physically fit young people receiving excellent medical care.
After the report, Congress mandated a comprehensive study to determine once and for all whether Gulf War syndrome was a manifestation of the mind or the result of a poisoned body. Seventeen years since the war began, the results finally have come in: Gulf War syndrome is a "real condition," and roughly one in four of the 697,000 veterans from that war suffers lifelong neurological damage from it.
The researchers cited two likely causes: the drug pyridostigmine bromide, or PB, which soldiers took as protection against nerve gas; and pesticides that were widely used in Iraq and Kuwait. No similar symptoms have surfaced among troops in other theaters.
The Food and Drug Administration had not approved the small, white PB pills as an anti-nerve agent in 1991 but gave the military a waiver. Veterans long have suspected the pills, but the government dismissed the assertions as fantasy. After all, billions in disability benefits hung in the balance.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is one more expensive, tragic mess the Obama administration soon will inherit. But the effects of Gulf War illness are irreversible. Nobody gets better; most every victim gets worse. Many can't work.
Anthony Hardie, who participated in the study, called the 450-page report "a bittersweet victory." While it vindicates victims and validates their complaints, it also documents the government's incompetence and insensitivity. "Years were squandered by the federal government," Mr. Hardie says, "trying to disprove that anything could be wrong with Gulf War veterans." The report lamented that "many had the misfortune of developing lasting health consequences that were poorly understood and, for too long, denied or trivialized."
It is a familiar shame. The delusion is also familiar. We like to think that we honor our veterans for their service, but the national definition of honor doesn't include repairing the damage they bring home.
They were told they were crazy. Statistical anomalies. Whiners. This week — after enduring 17 years of baffling and incurable ailments they blamed on exposure to nasty chemicals and untested anti-nerve-gas agents— veterans of the Persian Gulf War were told they were right.
Colorado's veterans of Operation Desert Storm feel justified after a congressionally mandated panel this week announced that the mysterious and often maligned "Gulf War syndrome" was in fact a legitimate medical condition. The panel concluded the syndrome was most likely associated with a combination of anti-nerve-gas pills and exposure to pesticides.
"I feel vindicated, but I'm angry. This is so long overdue," said Denise Nichols, a 57-year-old nurse who served for six months during Operation Desert Storm and has spent the past 17 years traveling between Denver and Washington, D.C., to advocate for soldiers suffering from Gulf War illnesses.
"Why did it take so long to listen to the vets and their families? . . . Why have they denied benefits and hurt people and let families fall apart and have soldiers go bankrupt seeking help?"
The 450-page report from the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses points to evidence that "strongly and consistently indicates" a combination of anti-nerve-gas medicine — pyridostigmine bromide pills — and pesticides used to ward off desert insects — permethrin and DEET — is linked to Gulf War illnesses.
The report supports the estimated 210,000 soldiers who endured a variety of unexplained ailments after their tours of duty: fatigue, headaches, joint pain, rashes, breathing difficulty, forgetfulness, circulation problems and cardiac troubles.
But that support comes as waves of thousands of injured Iraq war soldiers are flooding Veterans Affairs hospitals with traumatic brain injuries and missing limbs.
"I don't know where this will lead, because we have a whole other set of problems now," said Pueblo's Patricia Biernacki, a 38-year-old mother of two boys who spent years seeking help for neurological and digestive issues after her six-month tour as a Navy Reserve corpsman in Bahrain.
The Department of Veterans Affairs declined to discuss the report.
"The VA has accepted and implemented prior recommendations of the committee and values the work represented in the report," read a statement from VA Secretary James Peake.
The Research Advisory Committee recommended that "highest priority be given to research directed at identifying beneficial treatments for Gulf War illness." To date, no cure has been found, the symptoms persist, and treatment consists of relieving the symptoms.
Regardless of what happens next, soldiers who were derided or rebuffed after suggesting their maladies stemmed from their time in the Persian Gulf now have support for their arguments.
Randy Saubert, who had inexplicable numbness in his fingers when he returned from Iraq, heard from a few doctors that his medical troubles were not connected to the war.
"I always knew something over there caused this, and now they can't deny it anymore," Saubert said.
Saubert isn't sure what he came into contact with in Iraq in 1991 that caused his body to develop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Known as Lou Gehrig's disease, ALS is a progressive neurological disorder that kills nerve cells and leads to a loss of muscle control.
According to the report released this week, Gulf War veterans suffer a much higher rate of ALS than other veterans. The committee also found that Gulf War soldiers who were downwind of munitions demolitions in 1991 have died from brain cancer at twice the rate of other former Gulf War soldiers.
Saubert drove 38,000 miles back and forth across the Iraq desert in 1991, delivering ammunition, water, gasoline and supplies. A decade after he returned from war, he could not grip anything and he was diagnosed with ALS. Today, Saubert, who turns 52 in December and lives in Colorado Springs, has lost almost all use of his arms and legs. The VA is handling his medical bills.
The VA also is helping Biernacki, who saw her troublesome headaches and stomach pains explode into tremors, seizures and emergency surgeries during her second pregnancy, five years after she returned from the Middle East.
Today, she takes daily medications and has gone a year without any trips to a hospital. "That's a good record for me," says the 38-year-old. "Last year, I went four times."
Like most veterans, she can't pinpoint what caused her maladies. She remembers taking anti-nerve-gas pills. She was told, she said, that if she refused, she would be sent to the military prison at Leavenworth, Kan.
"If I knew then what I know now, I would have gladly gone and sat in Leavenworth," she said.
Anthony Hardie, a Gulf War veteran who serves on the Research Advisory Committee, said he and others in his unit took PB pills for weeks and combined "continual use of DEET and permethrin" with pest strips, spray trucks and other pesticide exposures.
"Like many of the guys in my unit, I became sick," he said, with respiratory ailments and the "typical roundup of fatigue, bowel symptoms, chronic widespread pain."
The committee report is "a profound victory" in one sense, he said: "It's government and science finally saying what Gulf War veterans have been saying all along."
But the report "does not yet bring treatment of the illness, nothing getting at the underlying cause," Hardie said. And 17 years "is an awful long time for someone to wait to get health care."
Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Seventeen years after the decisive but relatively quick Persian Gulf War invasion of Iraq to liberate Kuwait, a landmark 450-page report released Monday by a federal panel of scientific experts and veterans concludes what many veterans already knew about Gulf War illness:
At least one-fourth of the nearly 700,000 military personnel who served in that war and its aftermath have complex but real health problems that the report now scientifically links to a poisonous stew to which they were exposed.
"Veterans of the 1990-1991 Gulf War had the distinction of serving their country in a military operation that was a tremendous success, achieved in short order. But many had the misfortune of developing lasting health consequences that were poorly understood and, for too long, denied or trivialized," the report said.
The Congressionally-mandated report, titled "Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses" was handed over Monday to Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake at the department's headquarters in the nation's capital. The Boston University School of Public Health scientific staff assisted with research.
Anthony Hardie, national secretary and legislative chair for Veterans of Modern Warfare Inc., a non-profit veterans group representing those who served during and since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, said the report is "huge."
"It really closes one of the darker chapters of the legacy of the Gulf War, and that is Gulf War illness," Hardie said.
"The report clearly lays out that Gulf War illness was caused by unique exposures; it lays out clearly that Gulf war illness is not a stress-related or trauma condition, that is is not the same as in wars before or since. It is unique," Hardie said by phone Monday.
According to the report, "The extensive body of scientific research now available consistently indicates that Gulf War illness is real, that it is the result of neurotoxic exposures during Gulf War deployment, and that few veterans have recovered or substantially improved with time.
"Scientific evidence leaves no question that Gulf War illness is a real condition with real causes and serious consequences for affected veterans. Research has also shown that his pattern of illness does not occur after every war and cannot be attributed to psychological stressors during the Gulf War," the report says.
Gulf War veterans applaud the report, lamenting that it has been a long-time coming, noting the years in which fellow veterans suffered and died.
Hardie said the report conjures "mixed feelings."
On the one hand, "It is certainly a victory for Gulf War veterans. Gulf War veterans were right all along that their illnesses are related to unique exposures during the 1991 Gulf War. This is a government report based on science that clearly lays out the nature and scope and effects of Gulf War illness," he said.
On the other hand, "it is bittersweet in that two decades after the war's end we still don't have treatments for Gulf War illness; they are sporadic," Hardie said. Some veterans illnesses remain unrecognized.
The long ordeal over Gulf War illness for veterans of the 1991 war parallels the long fight of Vietnam veterans over post-war illnesses linked to Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant, many veterans say. The report notes those difficulties.
"Some observers have suggested that these complexities pose too difficult a challenge, and that it is unlikely that the nature and causes of Gulf War illness can ever be known. On the contrary, the Committee has found that the extensive scientific research and other diverse sources of information related to the health of Gulf War veterans paint a cohesive picture that yields important answers to basic questions about both the nature and causes of Gulf War illness. These, in turn, provide direction for future research that is urgently needed to improve the health of Gulf War veterans," the report says.
Many Gulf War veterans have voiced frustration that their problems were written off as stress-related. The report flatly says that "studies consistently indicate that Gulf War illness is not the result of combat or other stressors, and that Gulf War veterans have lower rates of posttraumatic stress disorder than veterans of other wars."
A variety of factors were examined, ranging from sychological stress, vaccines, oil fires, depleted uranium. nerve agents, infectious disease and many more.
Two immediately jumped out at Hardie, pesticides and pyrodstigmine.
The latter, called simply "PB," was a pill taken by at least half of all troops in the 1991 war for purported protection against nerve gas.
Troops in the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan don't have to take the pills, Hardie noted.
"That was one lesson we learned from the Gulf War. PB was not approved by the FDA, which gave a waiver to the Defense Department that waived the necessity for informed consent," Hardie said.
The report says of pyridostigmine bromide (PB):
"Widespread use of PB as a protective measure in the event of nerve gas exposure was unique to the 1990-1991 Gulf War. Pyridostigmine bromide is one of only two exposures consistently identified by Gulf War epidemiologic studies to be significantly associated with Gulf War illness. About half of Gulf War personnel are believed to have taken PB tablets during deployment, with greatest use among ground troops and those in forward locations. Several studies have identified dose-response effects, indicating that veterans who took PB for longer periods of time have higher illness rates than veterans who took less PB. In addition, clinical studies have identified significant associations between PB use during the Gulf War and neurocognitive and neuroendocrine alterations identified many years after the war. Taken together, these diverse types and sources of evidence provide a consistent and persuasive case that use of PB during the Gulf War is causally associated with Gulf War illness."
Depleted uranium, meanwhile, a much-considered potential source of illness over the years, was not likely a culprit in Gulf War illness, although the report leaves open a door by noting that DU very likely has effects of its own.
"Exposure to depleted uranium munitions is not likely a primary cause of Gulf War illness. Questions remain about long-term health effects of higher dose exposures to DU, however, particularly in relation to other health outcomes," the report said.
Committee members said the report offers a "blueprint" for the incoming Obama Administration to focus on Gulf War veterans. It also could help those from other countries, including troops allied with the U.S. during Desert Storm, who have reported similar health problems.
"A renewed federal research commitment is needed," the committee report says, "to achieve the critical objectives of improving the health of Gulf War veterans and preventing similar problems in future deployments. This is a national obligation, made especially urgent by the many years that Gulf War veterans have waited for answers and assistance."
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An extensive federal report released Monday concludes that roughly one in four of the 697,000 U.S. veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War suffer from Gulf War illness.
A U.S. soldier wears protection against chemical weapons during the Gulf War in a February 1991 photo.
That illness is a condition now identified as the likely consequence of exposure to toxic chemicals, including pesticides and a drug administered to protect troops against nerve gas.
The 452-page report states that "scientific evidence leaves no question that Gulf War illness is a real condition with real causes and serious consequences for affected veterans."
The report, compiled by a panel of scientific experts and veterans serving on the congressionally mandated Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses, fails to identify any cure for the malady.
It also notes that few veterans afflicted with Gulf War illness have recovered over time.
"Today's report brings to a close one of the darkest chapters in the legacy of the 1991 Gulf War," said Anthony Hardie, a member of the committee and a member of the advocacy group Veterans of Modern Warfare.
"This is a bittersweet victory, [because] this is what Gulf War veterans have been saying all along," Hardie said at a news conference in Washington. "Years were squandered by the federal government ... trying to disprove that anything could be wrong with Gulf War veterans."
The committee's report, titled "Gulf War Illness and the Health of Gulf War Veterans," was officially presented Monday to Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake.
Noting that overall funding for research into Gulf War illness has declined dramatically since 2001, it calls for a "renewed federal research commitment" to "identify effective treatments for Gulf War illness and address other priority Gulf War health issues." Watch CNN's Elizabeth Cohen report more on Gulf War illness »
According to the report, Gulf War illness is a "complex of multiple concurrent symptoms" that "typically includes persistent memory and concentration problems, chronic headaches, widespread pain, gastrointestinal problems, and other chronic abnormalities."
The illness may also be potentially tied to higher rates of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) -- more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease -- among Gulf War veterans than veterans of other conflicts.
The illness is identified as the consequence of multiple "biological alterations" affecting the brain and nervous system. iReport.com: Do you know someone affected by Gulf War illness?
While it is sometimes difficult to issue a specific diagnosis of the disease, it is, according to the report, no longer difficult to identify a cause.
The report identifies two Gulf War "neurotoxic" exposures that "are causally associated with Gulf War illness." The first is the ingestion of pyridostigmine bromide (PB) pills, given to protect troops from effects of nerve agents. The second is exposure to dangerous pesticides used during the conflict.
The report does not rule out other possible contributors to Gulf War illness -- including low-level exposure to nerve agents and close proximity to oil well fires -- though it fails to establish any clear link.
The report concludes there is no clear link between the illness and a veteran's exposure to factors such as depleted uranium or an anthrax vaccine administered at the time.
"Gulf War illness isn't some imaginary syndrome," said Steve Robinson, the senior intelligence officer for the initial Department of Defense investigation into Gulf War illness in 1996-97.
"This is real, and it has devastated families. Now is the time to restore the funding cuts that have been made in the Veterans Administration. Our mission has to be to ensure that these veterans get help and become whole again."
Robinson noted that soldiers in the field today are not at risk for Gulf War illness, because the military is no longer using the PB pills or pesticides that led to the illness in 1990 and 1991.
The report backs Robinson's conclusion, noting that no problem similar to Gulf War illness has been discovered among veterans from the conflict in Bosnia in the 1990s or in the current engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The committee report also backs Robinson's call for more effective treatments among veterans suffering from Gulf War illness.
Noting that overall funding for research into Gulf War illness has declined dramatically since 2001, it calls for a "renewed federal research commitment" to "identify effective treatments for Gulf War illness and address other priority Gulf War health issues."Specifically, the report calls for at least $60 million in new annual federal funding on research committed to improving the health of Gulf War veterans.
Begrepet golfkrigsyndromet har vært brukt som samlebetegnelse på en sykdomstilstand funnet hos veteraner fra golfkrigen i 1991. Symptomer er blant annet kronisk trøtthet, hukommelsestap, muskel- og leddsmerter, diaré, oppkast, svettetokter, hodepine, brystsmerter, sår som ikke vil gro, pusteproblemer. Fødselsskader hos barn av veteraner har også vært rapportert.
Begrepet har vært sterkt omstridt. Både amerikanske og britiske myndigheter har lenge ment at det ikke fantes nok vitenskapelig bevis for at sykdomstilstanden skyldtes fysiske påvirkninger soldatene var blitt utsatt for i golfkrigen.
Ny amerikansk rapport
En banebrytende amerikansk forskingsrapport, som ble offentliggjort mandag, konkluderer nå entydig:
n Golfkrigsyndromet er en reell sykdomstilstand som rammer soldater som deltok i krigen i Golfen i 1991.
n De to hovedårsakene til syndromet er at soldatene ble gitt piller med stoffet pyridostigmin bromid (pb) som motgift mot nervegass, og at de ble utsatt for massiv påvirkning fra ulike giftige stoffer brukt i krigføringen, for eksempel nervegifter i sprøytemidler.
n Rapporten utelukker ikke helt at også andre faktorer har virket inn, som inhalering av røyk fra brennende oljebrønner og eksponering for lave nivåer av saringass eller utarmet uran.
n Over 175.000 amerikanske soldater, en firedel av dem som deltok i krigen, kan være rammet av syndromet.
«Vitenskapelige bevis er utvetydige på at golfkrigsykdom er en reell tilstand med reelle årsaker og alvorlige konsekvenser for veteranene som rammes», sier komiteen bak rapporten, «The Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illness», ifølge den amerikanske avisa Washington Post (WP).
Komiteen er sammensatt av uavhengige forskere og av krigsveteraner, og var satt ned etter mandat fra Kongressen. De har jobbet med saken siden 2002, og overleverte mandag en rapport på 450 sider til James Peak, USAs minister for veteransaker.
- Denne rapporten avrunder et av golfkrigens svarteste kapitler, nemlig arven golfkrigsykdommen representerer. For dem som til og med tvilte på at golfkrigveteranene er syke, konkluderer denne rapporten meget grundig og endelig, sier Anthony Hardie, golfkrigsveteran fra Wisconsin, ifølge WP.
Den britiske avisa Independent skriver at minst 6000 av de 55.000 britiske soldatene som ble mobilisert til krigen i Golfen er rammet. At pillen med pb nå får en sentral del av skylden for syndromet, stemmer godt med observasjoner av at syndromet også har rammet britiske soldater som ikke ble sendt til Golfen, men som har tatt pillen.
- De av oss som er rammet av denne sykdommen, har ofte snakket om hvilke erfaringer vi har felles, og vi har alle blitt gitt disse pillene, sier Gary Williams til Independent.
Williams fikk pillen som vaksinasjon mot nervegass før han ble sendt til Golfen som 21-åring. Han er nå ute av stand til å arbeide på grunn av magesmerter, hodepine og invalidiserende trøtthet.
Norge også rammet
Allerede i vinter dukket påstanden om at pb var en viktig komponent bak golfkrigsyndromet opp i internasjonal og norsk presse. Dette etter at professor Beatrice Golomb ved University of California offentliggjorde at hun hadde funnet sammenhenger mellom eksponering for kjemiske stoffer og golfkrigsyndromet i 18 av 21 studier av syke veteraner. I hennes studier var det ifølge Bergens Tidende (BT) tre stoffer som peker seg ut, deriblant pb.
BTMagasinet skrev da om 67 nordmenn som deltok på et oppdrag under Golfkrigen i 1991, i kontingenten NorMedUnit/Unicom1, «den norske medisinske enheten i UNICOM».
BT har intervjuet 46 av de 67 norske deltakerne, og fant at 19 rapporterte om helseplager, reaksjoner og ettervirkninger. Seks av deltakerne har fått diagnosen posttraumatisk stressyndrom. Flere har problemer med konsentrasjon, søvn, hud, mage, diabetes og leddsmerter.
Sykest ble de som både tjenestegjorde i Golfen under krigen, og på et norsk sanitetsoppdrag i Irak/Kuwait.
Ifølge BT ble alle deltakerne i NorMedUnit/Unicom1 utsatt for å puste inn radioaktivt uranoksid, rester etter bomber som inneholder utarmet uran.
Norske veteraner som deltok på et oppdrag i Saudi-Arabia under selve Golfkrigen tok vaksinen pb. Flere av disse veteranene er ifølge BT også blant dem som er hardest rammet av seinskader.
Un comitè encarregat d'analitzar la salut dels veterans d'este conflicte bèl·lic ha assenyalat que gran part d'ells patixen una malaltia de característiques físiques que van més enllà d'una obsessió psicològica soferta, per exemple, per altres antics combatents en altres guerres. Segons el comitè, que ha seguit els casos des de 2002, "les proves científiques no deixen lloc a per a dubtar que la síndrome de la Guerra del Golf és una condició real amb causes reals i conseqüències serioses".
Este organisme, compost per veterans i científics independents, ha instat al Congrés augmentar els fons destinats a investigar esta malaltia fins a 60 milions de dòlars anuals, més de 47 milions d'euros. El comitè ha assenyalat que "és una obligació nacional" que es fa especialment necessària pel temps transcorregut.
La síndrome ha afectat a prop de d'un quart dels 700.000 militars que van servir en 2001 a l'estranger, en la Guerra del Golf. Entre els símptomes detectats en gran part d'ells s'han confirmat dolors de cap continus, dolors, dificultats cognitives, fatiga inexplicable, granellades, diarrea crònica i problemes digestius i respiratoris.
Queden per aclarir, tot i això, les possibles causes d'este quadre mèdic. S'estudien dos possibilitats com les més plausibles: la medicació donada a les tropes per a protegir-los contra el gas nerviós i els pesticides usats de manera generalitzada durant el conflicte.
Malgrat la importància d'este informe, la notícia va ser acollida amb relatiu escepticisme entre els directament afectats. L'exsoldat Anthony Hardie, ha destacat que com a mínim l'estudi contribuix a tancar "un de les capítols més foscos" del conflicte bèl·lic portat a terme contra l'Iraq i elimina qualsevol dubte sobre la veracitat de la malaltia.Per la seua banda, Adrian Atizado, ha subratllat que "la veritat prevaldrà", especialment ara que els soldats poden acudir amb proves a la mà per a buscar "atencions sanitaries i beneficis financers". "Esperem que ara es posarà un èmfasi més gran a buscar tractaments efectius", ha afegit.
14:04 | 18.11.2008 | Martin Novák, Aktuálně.cz
Washington - Komisa expertov vytvorená americkým Kongresom zverejnila správu o vyšetrovaní takzvaného syndrómu z vojny v Perzskom zálive pred sedemnástimi rokmi.
Viac než 170-tisíc amerických vojakov, ktorí sa zúčastnili vojny proti Iraku a oslobodenia Kuvajtu na začiatku roku 1991, si sťažuje na časté bolesti hlavy, únavu, problémy s dýchaním a vyrážky.
Postihnutí boli aj vojaci z iných krajín vtedajšej koalície, ktorej súčasťou bola aj československá protichemická jednotka.
Komisia vo svojej analýze konštatuje, že masové ochorenie spôsobili dva faktory. Prvým boli tabletky, ktoré vojaci užívali na ochranu pred nervovými plynmi. Američania sa obávali, že Saddám proti nim použije chemické, či biologické zbrane a dopredu sa pripravovali na obranu.
Druhým zdrojom zdravotných problémov sú pesticídy, ktorých sa vojaci počas vojny nadýchali. Komisia nevylučuje, že časť vojakov ochorela pri likvidácii irackých zásob jedovatého sarinu.
Komisia odporučila Kongresu, aby pridal ďalšie peniaze do fondu na pomoc pre postihnutých veteránov z roku 1991. "Mnohí veteráni už roky čakajú na pomoc, aj na zodpovedanie základných otázok týkajúcich sa ich zdravotného stavu," cituje zo správy agentúra AP. Americká vláda doteraz venovala na liečenie veteránov z tejto vojny 440 miliónov dolárov, ale v posledných rokoch sa táto čiastka znižovala.
O pôvode syndrómu panovali mnohé roky spory. Niektorí lekári, politici aj predstavitelia americkej armády spochybňovali, že špecifické ochorenie z vojny v roku 1991 existuje.
"Tí, ktorí neverili, že syndróm existuje, dostali teraz jasnú a konečnú odpoveď," povedal agentúre Reuters veterán Anthony Hardie z Wisconsinu, ktorému bolo v čase vojny o Kuvajt tridsaťdva rokov.
Konflikt sa začal 2. augusta 1990, keď iracká armáda obsadila Kuvajt a Saddám Husajn ohlásil jeho pripojenie k Iraku. Spojené štáty a ďalšie krajiny sústredili svojich vojakov v Saudskej Arábii a behom januára a februára nasledujúceho roku iracké jednotky z Kuvajtu vytlačili.
Pozemným operáciám predchádzalo mohutné letecké bombardovanie Iraku. Vtedajší americký prezident George Bush starší sa ale nerozhodol Saddáma zvrhnúť, americké pozemné jednotky sa zastavili na hraniciach.
Washington - Komise expertů vytvořená americkým Kongresem zveřejnila zprávu o vyšetřování takzvaného syndromu z války v Perském zálivu před sedmnácti lety.
Více než 170 tisíc amerických vojáků, kteří se zúčastnili války proti Iráku a osvobození Kuvajtu na začátku roku 1991, si stěžuje na časté bolesti hlavy, únavu, potíže s dýcháním a vyrážky.
Postiženi byli i vojáci z jiných zemí tehdejší koalice, jejíž součástí byla i československá protichemická jednotka.
Komise ve své analýze konstatuje, že masové onemocnění způsobily patrně dva faktory.
Prvním byly tablety, které vojáci polykali na ochranu před nervovými plyny. Američané se obávali, že Saddám proti nim použije chemické či biologické zbraně a dopředu se připravovali na obranu.
O dvanáct let později proti sobě stanuli američtí a iráčtí vojáci znovu...větší obrázekZdroj: Reuters
Druhým zdrojem zdravotních problémů jsou pesticidy, kterých se vojáci během války nadýchali. Komise rovněž nevylučuje, že část vojáků onemocněla při likvidaci iráckých zásob jedovatého sarinu.
Komise doporučila Kongresu, aby přidal další peníze do fondu na pomoc postiženým veteránům z roku 1991.
"Mnozí veteráni už roky čekají na pomoc i na zodpovězení základních otázek týkajících se jejich zdravotního stavu," cituje ze zprávy agentura AP.
Americká vláda dosud věnovala na léčení veteránů z této války 440 milionů dolarů, ale v posledních letech se částka snižovala.
O původu syndromu panovaly po mnoho let spory. Někteří lékaři, politici i představitelé americké armády zpochybňovali, že specifické onemocnění z války roku 1991 existuje.
"Ti, kteří nevěřili, že syndrom existuje, dostali nyní jasnou a konečnou odpověď," řekl agentuře Reuters postižený veterán Anthony Hardie z Wisconsinu, kterému bylo v době války o Kuvajt třiadvacet let.
Konflikt začal 2.srpna 1990, když irácká armáda obsadila Kuvajt a Saddám Husajn ohlásil jeho připojení k Iráku. Spojené státy a další země soustředily své vojáky v Saúdské Arábii a během ledna a února následujícího roku irácké jednotky z Kuvajtu vytlačily.
Pozemním operacím předcházelo mohutné letecké bombardování Iráku. Tehdejší americký prezident George Bush starší se ale nerozhodl Saddáma svrhnout, americké pozemní jednotky se zastavily na hranicích.