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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rep. Buyer’s departure will leave open seat in home state, House Veterans Affairs Committee

Editorial by Anthony Hardie, 91outcomes

(91outcomes.blogspot.com) -- As noted in the article below, the decision to retire from Congress by U.S. Representative Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) will leave an open seat and a political scramble in the Indiana Congressional delegation.

However, it will also leave an open seat at the top of the Republican side of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, where Buyer has served as the ranking Republican Member in the years since the Democrats won back the House and he shifted to that minority role from his previous chairmanship.

Initially seen by Gulf War veterans as a strong advocate for Gulf War Syndrome issues, he quickly learned that his fitness to govern would be questioned because of these health issues.  Some Gulf War veteran leaders felt Buyer abandoned them, while others have noted his quiet, behind-the-scenes role in supporting Gulf War Illness treatments and research in more recent years.

Buyer came under sharp criticism when, during the George W. Bush Administration, he called for closing off VA health care only to VA’s “core constituency” – the indigent and service-disabled.

Whatever the opinions may be, Buyer’s decision to leave Congress will leave a power vacuum on the Republican side of the House Veterans’ Affairs committee.

A special thanks goes out to Rep. Buyer and his staff for the many years of assistance they did provide in an array of tangible areas.

--Anthony Hardie

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Buyer's decision leaves open seat

Lawmaker is focused on his wife's health

Written by Mary Beth Schneiderand Maureen Groppe, The Indianapolis Star

(INDIANAPOLIS – IndyStar.com) A political scramble was ignited Friday when Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer said he will end his 18-year congressional career to be with his ailing wife.

Within minutes of the surprise announcement, the list of potential replacements began to grow, with more expected to eye running for that rarity in politics: an open seat.

Buyer said that on Nov. 24, his wife, Joni, 52, was diagnosed with what physicians told them was "an incurable auto-immune disease" -- a finding that was confirmed Jan. 19 and again Friday.

"While Joni's sister died 21 months ago from this disease, I will not call it incurable because it's our faith that allows us to believe that all diseases can be cured," Buyer, 51, said. "As part of Joni's prognosis, she has to de-stress her life."

That, he said, is why he would not seek re-election to Congress for a 10th term and was retiring Aug. 1 from the U.S. Army Reserve, where he is a colonel with 30 years' service.

Buyer's longtime aide, state Sen. Brandt Hershman, is among those expected to vie for the 4th Congressional District seat. The strongly Republican strip of Indiana snakes north from Monticello to Mitchell in the south.

Hershman, a Lafayette Republican who is Buyer's district operations director, said Friday the immediate attention should be on Buyer and his wife. But he said he is considering running for his boss' seat and expects to have Buyer's backing.

Others weighing a run are Secretary of State Todd Rokita -- who earlier this week said he is considering challenging Democrat Evan Bayh for U.S. Senate -- and lobbyist Matt Whetstone, a Brownsburg Republican and a former state representative.

One name that won't be on the list: Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman. While Indiana Republican Party Chairman Murray Clark said Skillman would "be a field-clearer" if she got into the race, she said she plans to remain lieutenant governor.

"I think a lot of people will take a look at it," including county officeholders, Clark said. "We have a really strong bench in that district."

While the 4th Congressional District is prime GOP territory, Democrats in Washington and Indiana said they'll give the race a second look.

So far, only one Democrat -- Purdue University biologist David Sanders, who

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker said the district is not insurmountable now that no incumbent is on the ballot.

But, he added, "first things first. Our hearts go out to (Buyer) in a terrible time for his family. He served his country both in the military and Congress, and he's got the right priorities for his family."

No one expected Buyer to bow out now, only days from the Feb. 19 deadline to file a candidacy for the May 4 primary election.

But during a news conference at Indiana University Hospital in Indianapolis, where he made the announcement, his wife at his side, Buyer said that now is a time he'd like to stay in Washington.

"Politically, the easiest thing for me to do would have been to run again, especially with the present wave that is coming from the American people who are eager to take back their country."

But, he concluded: "Now is the time to step back and focus on Joni," his high school sweetheart whom he has known since third grade.

Neither Buyer nor the friends who joined him at the news conference took any questions.

He made no mention of the ethics complaint filed against him this week by the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility in Ethics in Washington. That group wants the Internal Revenue Service and the Office of Congressional Ethics to review the Frontier Foundation that Buyer created in 2003 to give out scholarships.

Investigations by the news media, including The Indianapolis Star, found the foundation raised more than $880,000, primarily from companies and organizations with interests before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on which Buyer serves. But it had given out no scholarships, while instead spending money to host golf fundraisers at luxury locales.

Buyer has said he is waiting to raise $1 million before giving out scholarships, so that the fund can be self-sustaining, and dismissed CREW's complaint as a political attack.

Friday, CREW extended Buyer's family its sympathies but questioned the timing of his announcement and said his retirement "should not short-circuit an investigation of his conduct."

Among Indiana's nine House members, only Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, and Rep. Dan Burton, R-Indianapolis, have served longer than Buyer.

Buyer, a lawyer from Monticello, was first elected in 1992, beating three-term Democratic Rep. Jim Jontz.

Buyer never faced a tough Democratic challenge in his heavily GOP district. But he was pitted against GOP Rep. Brian Kerns in the 2002 primary after Indiana lost a congressional seat. Buyer beat Kerns and four other GOP challengers with 55 percent.

A veteran of the Persian Gulf War, Buyer had campaigned around the district in his first race against Jontz carrying his combat boots. He suffered from physical ailments after returning from the Persian Gulf and became an advocate for the military to take seriously what became known as "Gulf War syndrome."

Congressional Quarterly's Politics in America credits Buyer with playing a key role in expanding the health-care system for military retirees.

Weight gain could be symptom of underactive thyroid

Written by KJ Mullins, Digital Journal

(DigitalJournal.com) - Sufferers of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome often deal with weight gain. The culprit may not be diet but an underactive thyroid, known as hypothyroidism.

Many sufferers of Fibromyalgia have deficiencies of the endocrine system which result in weight gain.

The Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers released a press release about this issue.

"For some, it doesn't matter how much they exercise or what foods they eat, their own body will thwart their efforts to lose weight," said Dr. Kelly Boulden. "We often find that patients who are overweight also have undiagnosed conditions that may be direct causes of their weight gain.

It is difficult to get an accurate test for hypothyroidism. Blood tests for the condition are unreliable 90 percent of the time, not picking up severely low thyroid levels or thyroid resistance. Doctors at FFC perform a more thorough series of testing in order to detect levels of thyroid function.

"Specialized tests are becoming increasingly important to accurately treat thyroid disorders. The hormonal system is complex and understanding the impact on the body and daily activities can be very difficult and frustrating," said Dr. Boulden. "The endocrine system produces and sends hormones to all areas of our body to regulate essential functions such as temperature, reproduction, growth, immunity and aging - and yes, whether we gain or lose weight."

The red flags that a person could be suffering from an underactive thyroid include sudden weight gain or an increase in body fat.

Despite proper diet or exercise you can't lose weight. You experience fatigue, insomnia or restless sleep, anxiety or panic attacks. You have infections that linger. You develop chronic sinusitis and spastic colon (gas, bloating, diarrhea, and/or constipation).

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rep. Buyer, Gulf War Veteran, will not seek re-election

Written by MIKE SMITH, AP Political Writer

(INDIANAPOLIS – AP)  — Republican Rep. Steve Buyer announced Friday that he will not seek re-election this fall and will leave Congress after 18 years because his wife is ill.

Buyer choked back tears as he stood next to his wife, Joni, on Friday, saying she had been diagnosed with an incurable autoimmune disease.

"As part of her prognosis she has been advised to de-stress her life," he said. "Now is the time for me to step back. It's been an honor."

Buyer, 51, is the top Republican on the House Veterans Affairs Committee. He was the committee's chairman for two years before Democrats won the House majority in the 2006 election.

He has faced questions in recent months about a private scholarship foundation he created that had raised more than $880,000 since 2003 without awarding any scholarships. He has defended his handling of the foundation, but didn't mention it during Friday's announcement and didn't take any questions.

Buyer represents Indiana's heavily Republican 4th District, which stretches from the Lafayette area, through the western and southern suburbs of Indianapolis to Bedford. He won re-election in 2008 with 60 percent of the vote even as Barack Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since 1964.

A possible Republican candidate for the seat is state Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Wheatfield, who is Buyer's district operations director. Candidates face a Feb. 19 deadline to file for the May 4 primary.

Purdue University biology professor David Sanders, who lost badly to Buyer in the 2004 and 2006 elections, is the only Democrat to announce a campaign.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Halabja Monument

File:Halabja-monument.jpg

Monument to commemorate the victims of the gas attack on Halabja, Iraq in 1988.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Chemical Ali Executed

Written by Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor Staff writer

(Boston – Christian Science Monitor) - Ali Hassan al-Majid, the cousin of Saddam Hussein and regime enforcer who cast almost as fearsome a shadow across Iraq as the former dictator, was executed by hanging on Monday in Baghdad, Mr. Majid, who served as Hussein's internal security chief, came to be known as "Chemical Ali" after he ordered the use of poison gas in a ferocious counterinsurgency campaign against the Kurds in the late 1980s. In one incident, 5,000 men, women, and children were killed with nerve gas in the village of Halabja in 1988. He was the fifth most-wanted regime official and the king of spades on the famous deck of cards that the US military issued after its 2003 invasion.

His execution followed a death sentence last week – the eighth he's received since going on trial for war crimes in 2006. That was a stark contrast to the execution of Hussein, who was killed at the end of 2006, soon after his first confession. The hasty execution derailed further court cases against him, which led human rights organizations to complain that justice was not served. In particular, Hussein was never prosecuted for the the gassing of either the Kurds in the north or Shiites in the south.

Majid, however, was. He led the infamous Anfal campaign in the Kurdish north between 1987 and 1989, named for a chapter of the Koran that translates as the "Spoils of War." On his orders, Iraqi air power bombarded villages and towns with nerve gas and conventional weapons, and Iraqi infantry frequently swept through after the bombardment was over, killing surviving men and frequently evicting whole families from their homes, to make way for ethnic-Arab settlers from the country's south. Researchers estimate the campaign claimed 100,000 lives.

In 1991, after an uprising against the Hussein regime broke out in the largely Shiite south of the country, Majid was placed in charge of operations that killed thousands of civilians and a bloody campaign of terror against regime opponents afterwards. A former Iraqi intelligence officer told this newspaper in 2004 that he was ordered to transfer 14 political prisoners from the Shiite south to Baghdad shortly after the failed uprising.

Once in Baghdad, the men were taken to a large pool of acid and pushed in, one after the other. The tearful ex-intelligence officer said at the time: "There was just a brief scream and they were gone.... Other bus loads got different punishment. Some were buried in sand up to their necks and then run over with a steamroller."

What Majid's death means for Iraq today is hard to say. The country is heading towards March elections and Iraq's citizenry are still badly divided. On Monday, there were coordinated attacks on three major hotels in Baghdad that killed about 30 people.

Four of the five most-wanted men at the time of the invasion are now dead. In addition to Saddam Hussein, his sons Qusay and Uday were killed in a shootout with US forces in 2003. Former presidential secretary Abid Hamid Mahmud, the ace of diamonds, has been in captivity since 2003.

Another Gulf War veteran lost to Cancer; VA still does not track cancers in Gulf War veterans

Master Sergeant Jean-Paul Le Brocq

Master Sergeant Jean-Paul Le Brocq

The Le Brocq family

Orlando Examiner

On December 19, 2009 America lost a son, brother, husband, father and unsung American hero. He did not die in a far-off land, although he had served and fought for you and me in Korea, Iraq and Kuwait. He did not die in an IED ambush, although he had survived many. He died in his bed after a courageous battle with cancer. He lived a life of a professional soldier, serving in the 82nd Airborne in Desert Storm. He later became a Ranger and served in Korea and Iraq before retiring from the military.

“JP” will be missed by many, including his former commander in Iraq. Please take a moment to read the message “JP’s” CO sent to his father. Many different kinds of young men and women have gone off to fight this war and each has had their own reason to contribute. Here is one man’s tribute to another:


“I write this with a heavy heart and tears rolling down my cheeks. I have no reason to exaggerate my words—None.

“I cannot imagine losing my son; or my wife; or my father. You and your wife, and Teresa, and JP's kids...it is you who I mourn for—but it is JP that I knew and loved.

“I drive through the Arlington Cemetery twice a day, everyday, on the metro. It hurts every time. I cried today—twice, as I passed through, thinking of Friday. JP is the sixth man that I have stood side by side with in combat who will be put to rest there.

“What I say now is all I know to say. I am not a good man; or a good Christian; or father; or husband. I lead men in combat. I perform brutal and vicious deeds on other human beings and I ask for no mercy…There are men, who are not like me, who come with me and fight with me, not because they love it as I do, but because it is their duty. They fight for their country and the greater good. I do not. I know there is a God because only God would take JP and leave someone like me here on earth to go on. Your son did not deserve what happened—when it is I who deserve something like that.

“I asked your son to do things for me that you, his mother, his wife, his best friend and his children could never ask of him. He and I were all alone for two months working with 600 Iraqi commandoes. We were roommates for six months. He drove on 61 missions as my driver which was the second most dangerous job in all of Iraq. When we were fighting there, Iraq was the most dangerous place on earth. We hit IEDs, and battled insurgents almost daily. JP fought as a great warrior on 11 December risking his life for his Muslim interpreter...he battled and battled. What you do not know is that he did not have to go on that last trip to Balad. I gave him the option. He did not want to go—but he did.

“I knew him. It brings me great pain to do this. I am a great warrior in battle, but a coward in life. I will be there for him. I will not be able to do or say much—if at all. I will do everything I can to just keep my feet. I will be in civilian clothes in a beard and would like to just stay in the back, unnoticed. But, I will do whatever you ask me to do.

“JP was a warrior, and he was my friend. I am so sorry.

“Please, please know that when your son was under my care, I loved him more than my own children, and that I killed for him and would have died for him.

“He knew I loved him. I told him many times.

“Please let me know where you want me to be and what time. I will be there."

Jim

Therapeutic uses of Chelation Treatment; May have Gulf War Illness implications

 

 

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SOURCE:  Cheap Pharmacy Rx Blog

Drugs used to counteract drug overdosage are considered under the appropriate  headings,  e.g.,  physostigmine with atropine;  naloxone  with  opioids;  flumazenil  with  benzodiazepines;  antibody (Fab fragments) with digitalis; and N-acetyl-cysteine  with  acetaminophen intoxication. Chelating agents (A) serve as antidotes  in  poisoning with  heavy metals.

They act to complex and, thus, “inactivate”  heavy  metal  ions.  Chelates  (from Greek: chele = claw [of crayfish]) represent  complexes  between  a  metal  ion and molecules  that  carry  several binding  sites  for  the metal  ion.  Because  of their high affinity, chelating agents “attract” metal  ions present  in  the organism. The chelates are non-toxic, are excreted  predominantly  via  the  kidney, maintain  a  tight  organometallic  bond also in the concentrated, usually acidic, milieu  of  tubular  urine  and  thus  promote the elimination of metal ions.

Na2Ca-EDTA  is  used  to  treat  lead poisoning.  This  antidote  cannot  penetrate cell membranes and must be given parenterally. Because of its high binding affinity, the lead ion displaces Ca2+ from its bond. The lead-containing chelate is eliminated renally. Nephrotoxicity predominates among the unwanted effects.

Na3Ca-Pentetate is a complex of diethylenetriaminopentaacetic  acid  (DPTA) and serves as antidote in lead and other metal intoxications. Dimercaprol  (BAL, British Anti-Lewisite) was developed  in World War  II as an antidote against vesicant organic arsenicals (B). It  is able to chelate various metal  ions. Dimercaprol forms a  liquid,  rapidly  decomposing  substance that  is given  intramuscularly  in an oily vehicle.  A  related  compound,  both  in terms  of  structure  and  activity,  is  dimercaptopropanesulfonic acid, whose sodium salt is suitable for oral administration. Shivering,  fever, and  skin  reactions are potential adverse effects.  -

Deferoxamine  derives  from  the bacterium  Streptomyces  pilosus.  The substance  possesses  a  very  high  ironbinding capacity, but does not withdraw iron  from hemoglobin or  cytochromes. It is poorly absorbed enterally and must be given parenterally to cause increased excretion of iron. Oral administration is indicated  only  if  enteral  absorption  of iron is to be curtailed. Unwanted effects include  allergic  reactions.  It  should  be noted that blood  letting  is the most effective means of removing iron from the body;  however,  this method  is  unsuitable for treating conditions of iron overload associated with anemia.

D-penicillamine  can  promote  the elimination of  copper  (e.g.,  in Wilson’s disease) and of lead ions. It can be given orally. Two additional uses are cystinuria and rheumatoid arthritis. In the former,  formation of cystine stones  in  the urinary  tract  is  prevented  because  the drug can form a disulfide with cysteine that is readily soluble. In the latter, penicillamine  can  be  used  as  a  basal  regimen.  The  therapeutic  effect may result in part from a reaction with aldehydes,  whereby  polymerization  of collagen molecules into fibrils is inhibited.  Unwanted  effects  are:  cutaneous damage  (diminished  resistance  to mechanical stress with a tendency to form blisters),  nephrotoxicity,  bone marrow depression, and taste disturbances.

Survivors of Iraqi chemical warfare agent attacks in Halabja still seriously ill many years after the attacks

Symptoms and duration similar to complaints of Coalition veterans of the 1991 Gulf War

Byline: Aamer Madhani

HALABJA, Iraq _ Like many others in this small Kurdish city who survived the most notorious chemical attack by Saddam Hussein's regime, Hamida Hassen Muhammad suffers from the distinctive raw cough that physicians say plagues the community.

Each day, the 36-year-old widow wakes up hacking, and by the end of the day she finds herself spitting blood into her kitchen sink. The mustard gas used in the attack damaged her lungs, making even walking across her small home exhausting.

"It feels like the blade of a knife is scratching the inside of my neck when I breathe and when I eat," said Muhammad, who also suffered burns to her ...

  [READ MORE]

MORE ARTICLES ABOUT HALABJA:

Inter Press Service English News Wire
HEALTH-IRAQ: HALABJA -- THE LEGACY OF CHEMICAL ATTACK
News Wire article from: Inter Press Service English News Wire ...survivors of Iraq's 1988 chemical attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja are strikingly similar...with all its problems, Halabja has just one surgeon...with all legacy of the chemical attack, Halabja needs money, equipment...

AP Worldstream
Kurdish town of Halabja remembers Saddam's chemical attack
News Wire article from: AP Worldstream 00-00-0000 Dateline: HALABJA, Iraq The people of northern...gave the mountain city of Halabja a painful place in history...Hussein's forces launched a chemical attack on the Kurdish minority in...men, women and children in Halabja. Almost everyone in the city...

US Fed News Service, Including US State News
VOA NEWS: IRAQI VICTIMS OF HALABJA CHEMICAL ATTACK STILL SUFFER 19 YEARS LATER
News Wire article from: US Fed News Service, Including US State News ...weapons attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja. For the first time, Iraq's central...attacked the mainly Kurdish village of Halabja, using bombs, mustard gas and other...Kurds from their homes, but the attack on Halabja remains one of the most notorious acts...

US Fed News Service, Including US State News
VOA NEWS: HALABJA BEARS SCARS 18 YEARS AFTER CHEMICAL ATTACK
News Wire article from: US Fed News Service, Including US State News ...single day. The attack on Halabja came in the last months of...Tehran. Many Kurds believe Halabja was a target because of that alliance. Halabja resident, Abdullah, says the day before the chemical attack people in the town were saying...

The Washington Post
Halabja Watches Hussein's Trial and Waits for Its Day in Court; Residents of...
Newspaper article from: The Washington Post ...once again stalled, survivors of the Halabja chemical bombings -- one of the darkest...answering in court for the attacks in Halabja. "If he will be tried and executed just...26, who works as a tour guide at the Halabja Memorial Museum, a monument to the victims...

United Press International
BUSH MARKS 15TH ANNIVERSARY OF HALABJA
News Wire article from: United Press International ...Bush Saturday marked the 15th anniversary of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's chemical attack against the Kurdish town of Halabja. The chemical attack on Halabja -- just one of 40 targeted at Iraq' s own people -- provided a glimpse of the...

United Press International
Bush marks 15th anniversary of Halabja.
News Wire article from: United Press International ...Bush Saturday marked the 15th anniversary of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's chemical attack against the Kurdish town of Halabja. "The chemical attack on Halabja -- just one of 40 targeted at Iraq's own people -- provided a glimpse of the...

Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)
"Chemical Ali" sentenced to death by hanging over Halabja gas attack.
News Wire article from: Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) ...relation to the gas attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988. The sentence was announced in a public...Al-Douri was sentenced to 15 years as well. Halabja came under chemical attack by Saddam's forces March 16, 1988 and the attack...

Regulatory Intelligence Data
BUSH SAYS MASSACRE AT HALABJA SHOWS EVIL OF HUSSEIN'S RULE
Transcript from: Regulatory Intelligence Data ...Bush today held up the March 16, 1988, chemical attack on the civilians of Halabja, Iraq, as a prime example of the evil...regime in his weekly radio address. The chemical attack on Halabja - just one of 40 targeted at Iraq's own...

The Washington Post
Site of Iraqi Gas Attack Is Being Rebuilt; Kurds Returning to Halabja, Where...
Newspaper article from: The Washington Post ...until returning to Halabja a year ago. Five months after the chemical attack, Iraq accepted...destruction of Halabja. Thousands of...family in the 1988 chemical attack, including a...in a section of Halabja called Kaniashkan...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Blast from the Past – Increased brain cancer deaths in Khamisiyah-exposed Gulf War veterans.

A research paper published in the August 2005 issue of the American Journal of Public Health finds that Gulf War veterans who may have been exposed to nerve agents during the March 1991 weapons demolitions in Khamisiyah, Iraq, appear to have a higher risk for brain cancer death than veterans who were not exposed.

The paper, Mortality in US Army Gulf War Veterans Exposed to 1991 Khamisiyah Chemicals Munitions Destruction, was released: July 25, 2005 and has been repeatedly cited ever since.

New blog on body pain management announced

(Bethesda, Md. - PR.com)-- The American Academy of Pain Management defines pain as a “silent epidemic” and estimates that more than 50 million Americans live with chronic pain caused by disorder, disease, or accident. “Body pain is one of the most pervasive medical complaints of our time”, according to Rick Popowitz, CEO of BioCentric Health, Inc, which focuses on educating consumers about supplements for pain management.

BioCentric Health is pleased to announce the development of a new weblog, BodyPainCure.com, which focuses on providing tips and strategies for body pain management, especially of chronic conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia.

The focus of this site is to provide consumers with a portal to access complete information on chronic pain management, in an easy to follow and accessible format.

The site is supported by several professionals, notably Mark Wiley, OMD, PhD who is an expert on alternative methods for pain management.

“We try to focus on a whole person approach,” says Popowitz, “as strategies like proper diet, proper sleep, and appropriate exercise can greatly assist those living with chronic pain. At the same time, it is wise to consider nutritional supplements as they, too, can play role in proper pain management.”

The site offers regularly updated, freely accessible information on how chronic pain sufferers can make better lifestyle choices to reduce their pain. The site offers a free report on pain management, which visitors can receive simply by entering their name and email on the site.

“Our research shows that body pain is manageable and that quality of life can be enhanced with the proper treatment methodologies.”

To learn more, please visit http://www.BodyPainCure.com.

Contact: Rick Popowitz; email: rpopowitz at biocentrichealth.com, BioCentric Health Inc., 6701 Democracy Blvd , Suite 300, Bethesda, MD 20817 Phone: 301-960-4977

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gulf War Syndrome II: Iraq Burn Pits

Written by Kelly Kennedy, Army Times Staff writer

(Washington – Army Times) - As Wendy McBreairty hiked up a 20-foot bluff in her hometown of Cheyenne, Wyo., her thigh muscles felt heavy, as if she had been climbing for hours.

She breathed deeply, trying to fill her lungs but, as usual, she felt as if she could not get enough of the clear, cold air. Fatigue overwhelmed her, just as it does every other day of her life.

The 32-year-old Air National Guard staff sergeant sat on a rock, leaned toward the setting sun, and pondered her future.

“I had a lot of plans,” she said, biting her lip and wiping back tears. “I wanted a 20-year career in the military and I don’t see how I’m going to be able to do another 13. I’m working on my master’s degree — I’ll get that done, but I don’t know if it will do me any good.

“I don’t plan on having kids anymore.”

The root of her radical change in plans, she and her doctor believe, is the open-air burn pit at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. Before its Oct. 1 closure, the pit spanned 10 acres, consumed a wide array of potentially toxic materials and spewed a near-constant plume of thick black smoke that could be seen from miles away.

When McBreairty got back from Iraq in 2004, she desperately tried to understand what was causing her symptoms: shortness of breath, muscle fatigue, muscle spasms, fatigue and dry eyes. She found that others had similar, often equally puzzling, problems. Among the 40 people in her shop alone, five have neurological or respiratory issues.

One thing they had in common was that they all lived in the housing area at Balad known as H6 during their tours of duty in Iraq. H6 sat a mile southeast of the burn pit, and on many days was downwind of the plume.

Burn pits operate on U.S. bases throughout Iraq and Afghanistan, and troops in both theaters have reported respiratory problems, cancers, neurological diseases, heart problems and other issues that they believe are linked to exposure to smoke from the pits. Cases of respiratory illnesses among active-duty troops have risen steadily since 2001.

More than 400 veterans have contacted Disabled American Veterans, which is compiling a database of troops who believe they are ill from burn-pit smoke.

Of those, 39 say they lived in H6. Fifteen of the 39 have been diagnosed with asthma; 18 have undiagnosed breathing problems. Five have chronic cough, seven have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, five have constant headaches, five suffer from sleep apnea, two have brain tumors and 13 have cancer. Several have multiple symptoms.

H6 houses about 1,000 people at a time in two-person trailers and eight- to 10-person dorms. In one way, it was considered a good place to live because it was thought to be a less likely target for enemy mortar rounds.

But H6 sat closer than any other housing area to Balad’s burn pit at the northeast corner of the base. At one time, the raging plume of smoke and flame devoured 240 tons daily of every imaginable form of trash — plastics, petroleum, paint thinner, even amputated limbs and other medical waste.

And while Defense Department officials say it is now shut down, replaced by three cleaner-burning incinerators, another 50 pits in Iraq and 34 in Afghanistan are still in operation — compared with a total of only 27 incinerators in the two theaters.

Dust, ash and chemicals

At Balad, the burn-pit smog seemed particularly attracted to H6. A health risk assessment conducted in 2007 by Army medical experts noted that H6 saw its “highest level of contaminant concentrations” when prevailing winds were out of the north, which is about 21 percent of the time.

In the H6 courtyard, particulate matter with a diameter of 10 micrometers or less — about 1/30th of a human hair — reached a concentration of 221 micrograms per cubic meter on one day of testing. Military exposure guidelines for such particulates say such levels shouldn’t go above 50 micrograms per cubic meter, although in reality, most desert areas top that level during dust storms.

At Balad, only a mortar pit and guard tower right next to the burn pit came even close to the concentrations measured in H6 housing — and the particulate matter there included chemical-laden ash.

As particulate matter grows smaller than 10 micrometers — as it does in a fire — it becomes even more dangerous because it can settle further into the lungs.

Johann Engelbrecht of the Desert Research Institute, who in December was awarded a $1.2 million Defense Department contract to study the effect of desert dust on troops, found in a 2008 study that fine particulate matter at Balad and 14 other deployment sites is well above both World Health Organization and U.S. military standards.

The military’s safety standard for a one-year period is no more than 15 micrograms of fine particulate matter per cubic meter per day. Balad averaged 56 micrograms per cubic meter.

“This study characterized three main air-pollution sources: geological dust, smoke from burn pits, and until-now-unidentified lead-zinc smelters and battery-processing facilities,” Engelbrecht wrote.

The Environmental Protection Agency links fine and superfine particulate matter with increased respiratory symptoms, decreased lung function, aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis, irregular heartbeat, nonfatal heart attacks and premature death in people with heart or lung disease — which is why the EPA has pushed for a ban on backyard burning of any materials, including yard rubbish such as leaves and branches.

That is also why retired Air Force bioenvironmental engineer Lt. Col. Darrin Curtis is not surprised by the problems many troops say they’re having: He predicted it.

In fact, he knows about it firsthand — he lived in H6 himself during his tour at Balad.

“In my professional opinion, there is an acute health hazard for individuals,” he wrote in an oft-quoted memo that he sent up the chain of command in 2007. “There is also the possibility for chronic health hazards associated with the smoke.”

His memo detailed the long list of toxins produced by the burning plastics, Styrofoam, paper, wood, rubber, petroleum products and chemicals in the Balad burn pit.

He also noted that the military’s own regulations state that burn pits are meant to be an initial, short-term waste disposal option, not to be used for more than a few months before being replaced by incinerators.

Most of the burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan have operated since the wars began.

“I saw a lot of smoke,” Curtis told Military Times. “The smoke, especially at night, would sink right to the ground and hover. It was just thick, and it would settle over H6.”

Collecting data ‘impossible’

Curtis was concerned enough to set up sampling equipment to check for chemicals, collect dioxin levels, and measure the amount and fineness of the particulate matter to which he and other troops were exposed.

Defense officials often quote these data as proof that troops were not exposed to enough toxins to cause harm. But Curtis said he had problems getting the collection points to work properly because he had to guess at the wind patterns and which way the smoke would blow.

“It was very difficult to collect data,” he said. “I think it’s more than difficult — it’s impossible.”

Army 1st Sgt. Lynette Streitfield, diagnosed with asthma and chronic bronchitis after a tour at Balad, said that when she lived in H6, she saw Curtis’ equipment set up outside the barriers that ringed the housing area. Inside the barriers, smoke weaved in and out of the trailers, trapped by the concrete walls. But as she emerged from the barriers, she saw clear air around Curtis’ equipment.

“That’s probably my fault,” Curtis acknowledged. “We had to set up the equipment where there were power sources.”

The issues Curtis predicted and that service members report are in line with what experts say they would expect to see after people have been exposed to large amounts of smoke, as well as with what a doctor hired to examine soldiers complaining of shortness of breath found when he biopsied their lungs.

Many troops who have spent time near burn pits talk about similar, odd symptoms — a crackly or deeper voice, waking in the middle of the night because they’ve stopped breathing, constant headaches, a general sense of fatigue, and an inability to pull enough oxygen into their lungs. Neurological complaints include numbness and, in two cases in one unit, paralyzed facial muscles.

‘Just don’t feel right’

“People say they just don’t feel right,” said Air National Guard Maj. Jerry Molstad as he sipped a beer after a weekend drill day at Fort Carson, Colo., last fall. He and Master Sgt. Jonathan Hilliard fiddled with a pulse oximeter, which can quickly tell if their oxygen blood saturation levels are low — and they are.

Both are obsessive about the tiny machines since returning from their tours at H6 housing in January 2009.

“I’m a volunteer firefighter,” said Molstad, 52, a physician assistant in the Guard. “You know you don’t go into a burning house without a pack.”

At Balad, he said, “They had security guards pulling 12-hour shifts right over the burn pit with no protection.”

He said six of the 25 people who deployed with his aeromedical unit returned home sick.

That “really raised my eyebrows,” he said, adding that he’s living it himself.

“I feel short of breath just talking to you,” he said.

His voice has turned gravelly, he has problems breathing and, for the first time in his life, he has begun snoring. A nonsmoker, he worries that he has developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. X-rays taken after he returned show the bronchi in his lungs are more prominent than they should be, which suggests early COPD. “I have an X-ray from 2005 that looks totally different,” he said.

Tests later revealed a mass in his abdomen, causing him to fear a more immediate issue: cancer. He’s still waiting for the results.

He pulled out a photo that he took outside the door of his trailer at H6 at midday — but it looks like night. “I wore my gas mask all day that day,” he said.

But he could not fully protect himself from the daily dusting of soot that covered everything inside his trailer, he said.

“What did I immerse myself in?” he said. “It’s haunting.”

After the drill weekend ended, Hilliard returned to the home he fears he will lose if his symptoms become worse — in the old mining town of Victor, Colo., with oxygen-thin air about 10,000 feet above sea level.

“I was working out at Balad — spin class three days a week,” he said. “All of the sudden back here, I’m severely short of breath with a moderate workout.” He failed his most recent military physical fitness test “heinously.”

Hilliard spent 30 years as a career firefighter and said he could recognize what was being burned at Balad by the smell: Plastic. Styrofoam. Tires.

He said the pit actively burned only during the day; at night, the blaze was allowed to go down in intensity.

In his firefighter training, he learned that federal air studies have found the smoldering stage of a fire is twice as toxic as when it burns at its hottest, when more material is consumed.

“In the smoldering phase, it’s just nasty,” he said.

Dashed dreams

McBreairty said she was healthy before she served at Balad in 2004 with the New Mexico Air National Guard, loading bombs on F-16s.

She has since been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Fatigue came first. Then muscle spasms. Her jaw hurt. Her arm hurt if someone brushed it. Her joints ached. She had headaches.

Tests all came back normal.

“By the middle of 2007, I thought I was losing my mind,” she said.

Finally, an MRI showed brain lesions — the telltale sign of MS.

Almost immediately, her dreams of working as a sheriff’s deputy disappeared. She stopped playing softball. She gave up plans to become a military officer.

“I told my neurologist about the reports that had come out about the burn pits,” she said. “She was just amazed they were burning the stuff that they were. These are biohazards.”

McBreairty pulled a letter from a stack of medical paperwork on her parents’ kitchen table.

“I received the fax transmittal from the Department of the Air Force regarding the burn-pit hazards,” wrote Mary Kerber, McBreairty’s neurologist at Cheyenne Medical Specialists. “We believe that there are environmental triggers that can cause the manifestation of multiple sclerosis. … As we learn more about multiple sclerosis, we may be able to identify some of the environmental triggers and there may have been some environmental hazards associated with the open burn pit that could have triggered the manifestation of your disease.”

Knowing that someone believes her offers some comfort. But it’s not enough, she said.

“Stopping the burn pits is my biggest concern. I don’t want to see more of my friends be sick.”

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Group Urges Recall of Drug used for treating chronic widespread pain

Public Citizen questions benefit of pain pill for fibromyalgia, points to blood pressure risks

Written by MATTHEW PERRONE, AP Business Writer

(WASHINGTON -- AP) - A consumer advocacy group is asking government regulators to recall a drug they approved last year for a little-understood pain ailment, saying the pill can lead to dangerously high blood pressure.

A letter Wednesday from Public Citizen calls on the Food and Drug Administration to pull Savella off the market, almost exactly a year after it was cleared to treat fibromyalgia.

The drug is co-marketed by Forest Laboratories Inc. and Cypress Bioscience Inc.

Fibromyalgia is characterized by a wide range of pain-related symptoms, including muscle soreness, headache, fatigue and depression. Last summer European regulators rejected the drug due to lack of effectiveness data and side effects. Public Citizen argues the FDA should have reached the same conclusion.

"FDA should never have approved Savella for fibromyalgia, and should now immediately undo its error by removing it from the market," states the petition from Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group.

Company studies of the drug showed 20 percent of patients taking Savella had hypertension, or high blood pressure, compared with 7 percent of those taking a dummy pill. Savella, known generically as milnacipran, is part of an antidepressant class of drugs that have been associated with increased blood pressure.

Public Citizen also points out that the original study of Savella failed to meet the companies' own study goals for effectiveness. Company scientists reanalyzed the study, with a larger population and a shorter time span and recorded relatively meager benefit: 9 percent of patients on Savella significantly reduced their pain, compared with 7 percent of those taking placebo.

Public Citizen cites complaints from FDA's own statistical reviewer, who wrote: "there is no evidence ... that milnacipran is associated with improvements in pain or improvements in function at three months of therapy."

Since the FDA approved Savella last January, doctors have written more than 250,000 prescriptions for the drug, according to data from IMS Health.

A Forest Laboratories spokesman handling Savella did not immediately return calls for comment Wednesday morning.

FDA has cleared two other treatments for fibromyalgia: Eli Lilly's antidepressant Cymbalta and Pfizer's anti-seizure treatment Lyrica. Both drugs were cleared based on their ability to decrease fibromyalgia pain, though it's not clear how.

The cause of fibromyalgia is not known, though some researchers point to abnormalities in how patients with the disorder process pain nerve signals.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wisconsin Holds Gulf War Illnesses Recognition Day ceremony

The following is a January 19, 2010 press release from the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs:

====================================

Gulf War Illnesses Recognition Day Ceremony honors veterans

Gulf War Illnesses Recognition Day 2010 proclamation
Governor's 2010 Gulf War Illnesses Recognition Day Proclamation presented to veterans

(MADISON – Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs) – Wisconsin veterans of the Persian Gulf War were honored during a ceremony hosted by the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) and held on January 15th in conjunction with a meeting of the Wisconsin Board of Veterans Affairs in Boland Hall of the Wisconsin Veterans Home at Union Grove.

Veterans of the Gulf War participated in the ceremony held in advance of the actual date of observance, January 17, 2010, marking the 19th anniversary of the onset of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, or Operation Desert Storm, on Jan. 17, 1991, which took place until July 31, 1991. Around 10,400 service members from Wisconsin served during the conflict.

“This is the fifth Gulf War Illnesses Recognition Day ceremony being held by the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs,” said department Secretary Ken Black. “It is important to promote awareness and education about Gulf War Illnesses, and to encourage those veterans who may not have enrolled in the VA health care system to do so, as well as to apply for their state benefits.”

“About one-fourth to one-third of all U.S. service men and women who served in the Gulf War – and that number totaled near 700,000 – now have service-connected ailments,” said emcee Jose Leon, a Gulf War veteran who was introduced as the new Executive Assistant of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.

Also addressing the audience briefly was State Representative Bob Turner of Racine. In attendance were Ryan Knocke, an aide to U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, State Senator John Lehman of Racine, State Representative Samantha Kerkman of Kenosha, and Janine Hale, an aide to State Representative Robin Vos of Racine.

Secretary Black read a Governor’s Proclamation signed by Governor Jim Doyle declaring January 17, 2010 as Gulf War Illnesses Recognition Day in Wisconsin and presented it to the Gulf War veterans there, accepted by David Boetcher of Waunakee, the newest member of the Wisconsin Board of Veterans Affairs.

2005 Wisconsin Act 37 was created designating each January 17th as Gulf War Illnesses Recognition Day in the state, a day statutorily designated for recognition of those who still suffer from post-deployment health issues. Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to designate an annual observance, with the first observance in 2006.

For more information about Gulf War Illnesses, visit the WDVA webpage at www.WisVets.com/GulfWar. Also available on the department website are links to the federal VA and information about veterans’ benefits and services. The department’s toll-free phone number is 1-800-WIS-VETS (947-8387).

COMMENT: Gulf War veterans still struggle

The following comment was left on Jan. 5, 2010:

Mr. Hardie, Sir & any person helping out w/ this site thank you...i hope you keep this site going please do not stop. There are so many former current & future soldiers that will benefit from this site. I am trying to bring awarness to as many 1990-91 GulfWarVeterans as i can find... A BiG problem that i am finding is most personnel have no clue what to look out for. I get these guys attention when i get personal w/ my own conditions&experiences that i hav noted for myself that they acknowledge simular&sometimes more horriffic body functions.We need to be of course delecate&respectfull but talk professionally to each other,soldier to soldier.How many do we know have ever Had-Blood in there stool?Pissed blood to only have it down played to just a simple urinary tract infection?Why are my muscles twitching uncontrolably?Why does male soldiers semen burn our partners?Why? Is the V.A. Still Delaying/down playing GWI claims&real conditions for PTSD issues?

Monday, January 18, 2010

New test for Small Fiber Peripheral Neuropathy (SFPN) now available

Editor’s Note:  Many Gulf War veterans with Gulf War Illness have long reported neurological symptoms, but standard neurological tests have often come up short in providing objective confirmation of their symptoms. 

Among those tests are electomyograms (EMG) and nerve conduction studies(NCS, also known as Nerve Conduction Velocity, or NCV), which test for large fiber peripheral neuropathy.  In essence, the theory is that if there are small fiber issues, there will also be large fiber issues.

However, the field of neurology has grown in recent years to recognize the existence of small fiber peripheral neurophathy (SFPN).  Many of the symptoms of SFPN overlap Gulf War Illness burning, paresthesias, pain, fatigue, cognitive, and neuro-immunological dysfunction symptoms, and could play a role in Gulf War Illness – particularly if it could be shown that SFPN can be caused by Gulf War toxicants or is more prevalent in veterans suffering from Gulf War Illness.

The Cleveland Clinic has an excellent article on Small Fiber Peripheral Neuropathy on its website.

The article below describes a new test for SFPN, which is not yet widely available or widely accepted among neurologists, but which may help to provide objective confirmation of some of the symptoms of Gulf War Illness.

==============================================

Author: Brandt R Gibson, DPM

(ArticleAlley.com) - Peripheral neuropathy, or the abnormal functioning of a nerve in the feet or ankles is becoming increasingly more prevalent in society. On a regular basis, I have individuals coming to our office to be evaluated for numbness, tingling, shooting pain, electrical shocks, feelings of cold, burning pain to the feet. Many of these individuals don't have diabetes (the most common cause of neuropathy in the United States), but still have the symptoms. They have neuropathy and often wonder how extensive it is our how many problems they may have from this neuropathy.

Over the years, many tests have been developed to help evaluate the nerves. A nerve conduction test is useful and can help people evaluate the functioning of the larger nerves. These tests, however, may be inconclusive for small nerve fiber damage as often seen in neuropathy. Vibration testing, light touch testing, temperature (hot-cold) testing and PSSD testing have all also been utilized to help in this respect. But they have varying results dependant on the physician performing the tests. So the question usually is how a patient can get the best results or best understanding of the extent of their disease and more importantly how they can evaluate improvements from various treatments.

A newer test, Epidermal Nerve Fiber Density testing, is a technique that allows the diagnosis of small fiber neuropathy with 97% accuracy. This is the analysis of a 3mm punch biopsies of the skin to count the number of nerve fibers and compare to the usual number. Since the skin is quite consistent in this respect, the value can be compared to the standard and confirm the presence of small fiber neuropathy. No other test is as accurate for small fiber disease.

The other great advantage of epidermal nerve fiber density testing is the ability to evaluate the improvement or regrowth of small nerve fibers after treatment is undergone for neuropathy. Comparing to the previous biopsy, treatments can be shown to be effective by more than just subjective measures. It doesn't just feel better, it really is better. This is of great value to showing the value of newer treatments to not just stop neuropathy symptoms but hopefully reverse the progression.

So as you suffer with your neuropathy and are told that you "probably" have neuropathy, this new test may be a great opportunity to quantify the presence or absence of neuropathy. Then you can work with a specialist to reverse these symptoms and return to normal life. In other words, you can optimize what you were born with!
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Brandt R. Gibson, DPM, MS is a podiatrist with special interest in neuropathy and the new treatments. He is located in American Fork, Utah. For further educational materials and recommended medical products, visit http://www.UtahFootDoc.com . A free book on foot and ankle health can also be ordered at http://www.MyFeetHurtBook.com.  Copyright (c) 2009 Mountain West Foot & Ankle Institute

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Chelation Therapy: Cautions to Take

Author: Brent Boyd

(ArticleAlley.com) - Chelation therapy is the use of chelating agents to remove heavy metal ions from the body. Chelation (pronounced Kee lay shun) therapy started during World War I when poison gas (Lewisite) affected soldiers were treated with a chelating agent Dimercapol also known as British Anti Lewisite (BAL). BAL had severe and painful side effects but was the only known antidote for the arsenic based poison gas at that time.

With the advancement in medicines many chelating agents were developed in the US, USSR and England which do not have as severe side effects as BAL. There are other chelating agents which have been developed to nullify the effects of harmful metallic ions. Some of them are:

  • BAL : British Anti Lewisite
  • DMSA : Dimercaptosuccinic acid
  • DMPS : Dimercapto-propane sulfonate
  • ALA : Alpha lipoic acid
  • Ca Na2 -EDTA : Calcuium disodium versante
  • D-Penicillamine
  • Deferosamine
  • Deferoxamine

Chelation therapy is conventionally used for treatment of heavy metal poisoning like mercury, arsenic, plutonium, lead and iron, (as in thalassemia). It is only used in acute cases where the poisoning is so high as to justify chelation therapy. The chelating agents are treated orally or intravenously or intramuscularly depending on the type of poisoning. Chelation therapy is also used for treatment of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), autism caused by mercury by alternative medicine practitioners but the efficacy of chelation therapy is not proven for these ailments. Chelation therapy involves undergoing 20 to 50 infusions depending on the type of patient.

Chelating agents work by forming a water soluble compound with the harmful metal ions in the blood. This water soluble compound flows through the blood stream and is cleaned by kidneys and the liver.

It has been claimed widely that Chelation therapy is efficacious in treatment of people with fatty buildups of plaque in their arteries (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis is the main cause of heart attack and stroke where in fatty deposits in the arteries constrict the arteries. Calcium is a constituent of this fatty deposit. Chelation therapists claim that the chelating agents remove the calcium from the deposit and thus the artery gets cleared. However the problem with this theory is that the chelating agent cannot penetrate the cell wall and get to the calcium deposit. Further the chelating agent has more affinity for other ions than for calcium.

The proponents of chelation therapy like American College for Advancement of Medicine ACAM (a private organization) and few parent organizations have widely supported Chelation therapy. One example of successful use of chelation therapy is of Mr.Harold Mc Cluskey a nuclear worker who had been poisoned by americium and was later treated successfully by chelation therapy. Further high sulfur foods like onions, garlics, seaweeds etc,. are being used as "chelating agents" due to folklore.

MSM and NAC have also been used as sulfur supplements. However they are not chelating agents as the double bond with the metal ion is not involved and these compounds have mono thiols whereas chelating agents have di-thiols.

The opponents of chelation therapy have pointed to the dangers of chelation therapy like hypocalcaemia and mainstream medicine has rejected the claims of chelation therapists. Caution is advised before undergoing chelation therapy.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Government waits for proof - sometimes for decades - before caring for sick veterans

Health care » The VA requires former service members to prove an illness was caused by military service.

By Matthew D. LaPlante, The Salt Lake Tribune

(SALT LAKE CITY, UT – The Salt Lake Tribune) - In Vietnam, Jim Ogden flew through clouds of Agent Orange. In Desert Storm, he hovered past burning oil fields. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, he worked near a thick black plume of burning plastic, metals, chemicals and medical waste.

Along the way he took injection after injection and swallowed pill after pill. He breathed in herbicides and pesticides. And he never questioned whether all of those drugs, toxins and poisons might someday do him harm.

Not until he lost his eyesight.

Now the former Marine and master helicopter mechanic can't help but wonder what, if anything, was to blame.

Though often in unintended and unexpected

Jim Ogden likes to spend time in his basement among the memorabilia of his career working with helicopters in hot spots around the world. Shortly after his last stint of service as a civilian helicopter mechanic in Iraq, Ogden became blind. Without a way to prove that his blindness is related to his military service, he isn't eligible for veteran's benefits. (Trent Nelson / The Salt Lake Tribune)

ways, military service has sickened generations of U.S. service members. But the only way for veterans to ensure medical care and compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs is to prove that their illnesses are "service-connected." But the complexity of linking myriad mysterious ailments to military service -- and the budgetary burden of caring for millions of sick and dying veterans -- limits the number of veterans that the VA can help.

Thirty-five years after the end of the Vietnam War, the VA is still slowly adding to the list of conditions recognized as related to Agent Orange exposure. And nearly 20 years after the first U.S. war in Iraq, the VA still doesn't recognize Gulf War Illness as a diagnosis worthy of care or compensation -- even as a federal commission has determined the condition is real and affects tens of thousands of veterans.

That's to say nothing of veterans, like Ogden, who don't know how they got sick.

Meanwhile, military and political leaders have failed to heed lessons from past wars that could help identify mysterious illnesses.

--

'Not like this' » The view from Ogden's East Millcreek home is a stunning panorama of the Salt Lake Valley, but the Marine Corps veteran's favorite room is in the basement. Across the walls of a long den is a virtual biography of more than four decades of service in the Marines and as a civilian Black Hawk helicopter mechanic for the Army. The photographs and commendations begin in Vietnam, where he was a crew chief on a CH-53 transport helicopter in 1967; and end in Iraq, where he worked for Sikorsky Aircraft in 2004. In all of those years, he never called in sick.

A few months after his return from Iraq, Ogden suddenly began having trouble seeing out of his left eye. A few months after that, he awoke unable to see anything out of the other eye. Soon he was completely blind in his right eye and nearly so in the left.

"I'd always had good eyesight," Ogden said. "And then, all of the sudden, I didn't. I can't read a magazine. I can't use a computer. I can't put a nail in the wall."

Doctors told Ogden that he had suffered a series of optic nerve strokes. There was no cure. His career was over. He'd been planning to retire, "but not like this."

A year later, Ogden was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, a disease in which the areas of the brain associated with personality, behavior and language begin to shrink. Later, his doctors warned, he might become socially inappropriate, impulsive or emotionally blunted. Ultimately, they said, he may lose the ability to use and understand language.

The diagnoses were terrifyingly specific; the causes were maddeningly unclear. No one could tell Ogden what had gone wrong. But in between medical appointments, unable to do many of the activities he had planned for his retirement, the 67-year-old man had a lot of time for speculation.

Perhaps it was the Agent Orange, a toxic defoliant used by the U.S. military to destroy enemy jungle hideaways in Vietnam, linked to more than a dozen diseases and suspected of contributing to dozens more. Or maybe it was the bromide pills he took during his first trip to Kuwait in the early 1990s. The tablets were supposed to help increase survival during a chemical weapons attack, but are suspected of contributing to a slew of conditions known as Gulf War Illness.

Or possibly it was the putrid fumes and thick black smoke that wafted over the largest U.S. military base in Iraq from a 10-acre trash heap that was set ablaze in 2003 and, in subsequent years, burned all manner of toxic garbage. Some veterans and their families believe the Balad Air Base burn pit -- and similar operations scattered throughout Iraq and Afghanistan -- are to blame for numerous respiratory, neurological and cancerous conditions.

"It could be any of that or it could be nothing at all," Ogden conceded. "I don't think there is anyone out there who has the answers."

Because he can't prove that his illness is connected to his service, Ogden doesn't qualify for VA care. "We're fortunate that we have other means," said his wife, Kathy. "But we've tried to find someone from the VA who might be interested in looking at him, just to see if there's anything they can learn about him that could help other people. No one is interested."

--

'That's just not in my doctor book' » A teetering stack of medical journals sits on Larry Meyer's desk at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City. The pile gets taller each week, and although Meyer fights to keep up, only the bottom third of the magazines in the stack have broken bindings.

As the hospital's chief of research, Meyer tries to link symptoms to diseases and diseases to causes. Most of the time, he can diagnose on the spot. But he can't always tell his patients why they are sick -- at least not with the specificity they need to prove their ailment is service-related.

"It is with great frequency that I am humbled," Meyer said. "There are times when I must say, 'That's just not in my doctor book.' "

One way to explain the challenge: melanoma.

"I've seen a lot of really horrible cases of skin cancer from guys who spent years on the deck of an aircraft carrier during World War II," Meyer said.

Skin cancer is relatively easy to diagnose. But while it's obvious that the risk of developing it would be greater for those who served -- often without so much as a shirt on their back -- in the middle of the South Pacific, Meyer can't draw a direct link.

"Skin cancer takes decades to develop and it is the result of accumulative exposure," he said, noting that he's beginning to see similar conditions from veteran sailors from the wars in Korea and Vietnam. "How much of any one person's exposure was a result of their time in the military? That, I cannot say."

--

'Keep fighting' » James Bunker left Iraq in a fit of uncontrollable convulsions. No one could say what had gone wrong, but doctors suspected the Army artillery officer may have been exposed to a small amount of nerve agent when his division destroyed a large ammunition depot during Operation Desert Storm.

Over time, Bunker lost the use of his hands, arms and legs. Within a year of being sent home, he was discharged.

"The Army told me the VA would help me," the former soldier told the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Security in 2004. "The VA said it was all in my head."

Enraged and impassioned by his own experiences, the 50-year-old Kansas man now battles bureaucrats and politicians on behalf of other Gulf War vets, tens of thousands of whom returned from the Middle East suffering from chronic fatigue, heightened chemical sensitivity, skeletal pain, skin rashes and other medical conditions that physicians were unable to attribute to a single cause.

For years, the government was reluctant to respond, noting that scientific studies had yet to find a cause for the strange syndrome. And without a cause, VA officials could do little but deny the war fighters' claims. Five years after the Gulf War, the Government Accountability Office determined that of the 7,845 undiagnosed claims made by Gulf War vets, the VA had approved just 392 for compensation or medical help.

Last year, Bunker and other veterans advocates scored a big win: A federal panel of medical experts agreed that Gulf War Illness is real and affects at least a quarter of the 700,000 veterans who served in the 1990-91 conflict. But the VA has said only that it promises to "review and respond to the committee's recommendations in the near future."

Eighteen years after the war's end, Bunker hasn't achieved one of his main goals: The government still doesn't recognize Gulf War Illness as a compensation-worthy diagnosis. Instead, it is up to sick veterans to establish that each symptom is related to their wartime service.

Bunker tells fellow veterans to "keep fighting," no matter how much paperwork they must file or how many times their claims are denied.

Federal law and administrative policy often position Mark Bilosz on the opposite side of that fight, but the director of the VA's regional office in Salt Lake City offers the same advice.

"If you're a veteran and you've got something wrong with you and you've got any inkling that it could be related to military service, I always say to file a claim," said Bilosz, whose first job with the VA was reviewing veterans' claims for compensation.

The VA might deny the claim initially, Bilosz said, but ultimately -- perhaps years down the road -- a connection might be made between a disease and its cause. Prostate cancer, for instance. Today any Vietnam veteran who suffers from that disease is entitled to VA care and compensation because the ailment has been connected to Agent Orange exposure. "But 15 years ago it wasn't," Bilosz said. "It would have been denied back then."

--

'We don't know what we don't know' » When military health officials ultimately conceded a need to better study the potential existence of Gulf War Illness, there was one major obstacle: The Defense Department had no way to determine exactly where nearly 700,000 military men and women served.

"Up to that point in time, electronic databases only captured the country that individuals were deployed to," said Craig Postlewaite, the U.S. military's senior health protection official. That left "a huge gap," Postlewaite said. And that made it difficult, if not impossible, to connect environmental exposures to specific service members, Postlewaite said.

To remedy the situation, military leaders ordered a record-by-record accounting of the whereabouts of every military member. The effort began in 1996, continued for several years and cost several million dollars.

But when the United States went back to battle -- in the same nation -- in 2003, it still didn't have a tracking process in place. It wasn't until 2006 that the military implemented a tracking system adequate for epidemiological studies, Postlewaite said, and that system wasn't fully functional until 2009.

Rep. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y., is appalled. He's planning legislation to fill the gap -- essentially duplicating the record-by-record examination that took place in the 1990s. But even if Bishop's proposed bill becomes law, it may not lead to clear answers about why some veterans got sick.

Those answers simply might not exist, said Michael Battistone, a rheumatologist in the VA Salt Lake City health care system.

"All of us try to make sense of what goes on around us and within us," he said. "When something happens, we want to know why."

Battistone said ailments suffered by veterans could be the result of an exposure to one toxin or the convergence of many. Sorting through all the possibilities -- for millions of people, each with different genetic susceptibilities -- might not be feasible, he said.

But Battistone, whose perspectives on health care are colored by his experiences as the son of an Adventist minister, wonders whether that should really matter.

"How can we look these returning veterans in the eyes and when we say 'Thank you,' have that mean something more?" asked Battistone, who grew up listening to recordings of U.S. Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall, who extolled his followers to live up to the sacrifices made on their behalf. "How can we live in such a way that our actions and our character are worthy of the sacrifices they have made?"

Perhaps, he said, humility is a start.

"Maybe we just need to be able to say, 'We don't know what we don't know, but we will care for you regardless.' "

If that is the ideal, this nation has a long way to go. The VA spent nearly $48 billion on medical care for about 5.5 million veterans last year.

About 18 million veterans were left to their own devices.

mlaplante@sltrib.com
blogs.sltrib.com/military

Friday, January 15, 2010

2010 State of Wisconsin Gulf War Illnesses Recognition Day

January 15, 2010

RE: 2010 State of Wisconsin Gulf War Illnesses Recognition Day

Dear fellow Gulf War veterans, advocates, and loved ones of 1991 Gulf War veterans:

It was a very painful realization last spring, following my fifth service-connected surgery, that I was no longer able to continue working in any capacity, largely due to my own Gulf War Syndrome and mustard lung afflictions. For my fellow Gulf War veterans, this experience is all too common, with more than one-third of us now on the disability rolls and between 175,000 and 210,000 of us suffering from the debilitating effects of the chronic multi-symptom disease known as Gulf War Syndrome or Gulf War Illness.

For the last 15 years, I’ve come to know many of you while serving as an active advocate on issues related to Gulf War veterans health and other veterans issues, including during my service as a Congressional aide and most recently as the third in command at the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.

It’s been a difficult road for all of us who were affected by chemicals in the 1991 Gulf War, with Gulf War veterans having to become their own advocates with the federal VA, on Capitol Hill, and often even in our own local communities. On this 19th anniversary of the beginning of the 1991 Gulf War, for many Gulf War veterans, the battle has never ended with struggles for appropriate health care and benefits dominating the years after service in the 1991 Gulf War.

However, there is new hope on the horizon.

First, just over a year ago, the congressionally chartered U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Research Advisory Committee (RAC) on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses released a comprehensive, 454-page scientific report that provided details on the chemical causes of Gulf War Syndrome and a pathway for treatments for this debilitating, service-related condition. The RAC – created under the Persian Gulf War Veterans Act of 1998 that was championed by the National Gulf War Resource Center – is made up of about ten distinguished scientists and medical researchers from the U.S. and UK and five affected Gulf War veterans, including myself.

This formal government announcement led to headlines across the globe, “Gulf War Syndrome is Real.” While this was certainly not news to Gulf War veterans and their loved ones, this final government recognition did help pave the way for more a more reliable stream of federal funding directed at treatment-focused medical research for these serious Gulf War chemical injuries and the resultant, debilitating, multi-symptom disease.

I have sent along a full case of these book-sized reports, entitled, “Gulf War Illness and the Health of Gulf War Veterans: Scientific Findings and Recommendations,” for public distribution at today’s event. The report is also available online at www1.va.gov/rac-gwvi.

Second, the Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP) of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) now continues to receive annual funding from Congress for medical research to test potentially helpful treatments for Gulf War Illness and to better understand the serious neurological and DNA-level damage caused by the chemical toxic soup of the 1991 Gulf War.

Just last month, Congress appropriated another $8 million for the CDMRP’s FY10 GWIRP program. As an affected Gulf War veteran consumer member since the program’s FY06 restoration, I’m looking forward to our January 14th meetings in Annapolis, Maryland, which will be completed by the time this letter is distributed. During these meetings, our small group of appointed scientists, medical doctors, and two ill Gulf War veterans will decide the fate of which proposals are the most promising to receive FY09’s $8 million for treating and better understanding Gulf War Illness and then set the course for the FY10 program.

More information about the CDMRP, including how affected veterans and their loved ones can help our fellow disabled veterans by participating as consumer reviewers in the Gulf War Illness and several other research programs, is available online at cdmrp.army.mil, or in the CDMRP information booklets I have sent to be distributed at today’s event.

Finally, funded studies from prior years are testing treatments that show great promise, like high doses of Coenzyme Q-10 and many more. The latest news and information for Gulf War veterans, their advocates, and their loved ones – including breaking news about promising new treatments – is published on a website called 91outcomes, which is the official news source on Gulf War veterans’ health for the National Gulf War Resource Center, National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, Veterans of Modern Warfare, and others. The website address is: 91outcomes.blogspot.com.

I hope the information in this letter is of use to you or someone you know. Thank you for your service to our nation and to our nation’s 697,000 veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.

All the best,

Anthony D. Hardie

Appointed Veteran Member,

RAC & CDMPR-GWIRP

Friday, January 8, 2010

Ultraviolet Light May Help Chronic Pain Sufferers

Written by: Ivanhoe Broadcast Services

According to the Mayo Clinic, fibromyalgia occurs in about two percent of the population in the United States.

Women are more likely to develop the disorder, and the risk increases with age.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain in muscles, ligaments and tendons.

Patients with the condition also suffer from fatigue and have multiple tender points, which are places on the body where slight pressure can cause pain.

These points may include the back of the head, areas between the shoulder blades, the tops of the shoulders, the front sides of the neck, the upper chest, the outer elbows, the upper hips, the sides of hips, and the inner knees.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia often begin after a physical or emotional trauma, but in many cases, there is no triggering event.

Many patients with fibromyalgia also have co-existing conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, endometriosis, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, lupus, osteoarthritis, post-traumatic stress disorder, restless legs syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis.

Treating the condition may include both medication and self-care.

Some drugs like acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen may ease pain and stiffness. Doctors might also prescribe antidepressants or anti-seizure drugs for patients with fibromyalgia.

Physical therapy may restore muscle balance and reduce pain for these patients. Counseling is another option that teaches patients how to deal with stressful situations.

According to a preliminary study conducted at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, ultraviolet light may help relieve pain in patients with fibromyalgia.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, included 19 fibromyalgia patients who were exposed to both UV and non-UV light. The patients were asked to report on their levels of pain as well as their moods.

They were then divided into a UV and non-UV group. All of the fibromyalgia patients received light treatments three times a week for a total of six weeks. Those in the UV group reported more improvements compared to those in the non-UV group.

In a previous study, participants who received UV light treatments reported improvement in their arthritis and back pain.



Those in the UV group reported more improvements compared to those in the non-UV group.

While the Wake Forest study suggests tanning may benefit certain people, dermatologists warn about the dangers of tanning beds.

In July, the World Health Organization declared UV radiation from tanning bed one of the most dangerous forms of cancer-causing radiation. In 1994, a Swedish study found women between 18 and 30 years old who visited tanning salons 10 times or more a year were seven-times more likely to develop melanoma.

A study conducted at Dartmouth Medical School found that tanning bed users had 2.5-times the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5-times the risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.