The study included extensive interviews and examinations of "159 Gulf War-deployed preventative medicine personnel who had varying levels of pesticide exposures during their work as pesticide applicators or other preventative medicine roles".
According to the study's publication, "Study results showed that the participants with both high pesticide and high [Nerve Agent Protective Pill (PB)] exposure performed worse on specific measures than the groups with high single exposures or low exposures to both toxicants."
Study results showed that "high combined exposure was associated with significantly slower information processing reaction times, attentional errors, worse visual memory functioning, and increased mood complaints. In addition, ... analyses of individual pesticide exposures found that pest strip exposure was associated with slower reaction times and attentional errors, and that fly bait and delouser exposures predicted greater mood complaints."
The chemicals involved affect brain chemistry and, "are known to produce chronic health and cognitive symptoms at sufficient exposure levels," according to earlier research cited in the study. The chemical warfare nerve agents Sarin and Cyclosarin -- acknowledged to have been released at the Khamisiyah munitions depot demolitions immediately following the war's ceasefire -- are in the same class of chemicals (Organophosphates, or OP's) as some of the pesticides analyzed in this study.
This extensive, multi-year research project was funded by a Fiscal Year 2006 grant from the Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP), part of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) funded by Congress within the Defense health program.
The study's principal investigator was Dr. Kimberly Sullivan of the Department of Environmental Health with the Boston University School of Public Health.
Dr. Sullivan currently leads a major Gulf War Illness treatment development Consortium, which is also funded by the CDMRP. This treatment development study is currently recruiting both healthy Gulf War veterans and those with Gulf War Illness at its study sites in Boston, Miami, and Houston.
More information about the ongoing Gulf War Illness treatment development study is available at: http://sites.bu.edu/gwic .
- Gulf War Veterans (GWV) were exposed to pesticides and pyridostigmine bromide (PB) pills during the war.
- We compared cognitive and mood functioning in GWV who were pesticide applicators or non-applicators during the war.
- GWV with high pesticide/PB exposures had slower information processing, worse visual memory and increased mood complaints.
- Specific pesticides also contributed independently to poorer cognitive and mood outcomes.
1991 Gulf War (GW) veterans continue to experience debilitating cognitive and mood problems more than two decades following their return from deployment. Suspected causes for these cognitive complaints include additive and/or synergistic effects of the varying combinations of exposures to chemicals in theater, including pesticides and pyridostigmine bromide (PB) pills. This study was undertaken to address one of the key recommendations of the US Department of Defense Environmental Exposure Report on Pesticides, which was to conduct an epidemiological study to further evaluate the role of neurotoxicant exposures in the expression of central nervous system symptoms reported by GW veterans. This study evaluated the role of pesticides and/or PB in the development of chronic neuropsychological dysfunction in GW veterans. We examined the associations between self-reported measures of pesticide and PB exposures and performance on neuropsychological tests in a group of 159 GW-deployed preventative medicine personnel who had varying levels of pesticide exposures during their work as pesticide applicators or other preventative medicine roles. These veterans had a unique knowledge of pesticides and their usage during the war. It was hypothesized that pesticide applicator personnel with higher exposures would perform significantly worse on objective cognitive measures than lower-exposed personnel and that multiple chemical exposures (pesticide and PB) would further diminish cognitive functioning and increase mood complaints. Study results showed that the participants with both high pesticide and high PB exposure performed worse on specific measures than the groups with high single exposures or low exposures to both toxicants. High combined exposure was associated with significantly slower information processing reaction times, attentional errors, worse visual memory functioning, and increased mood complaints. In addition, stepwise regression analyses of individual pesticide exposures found that pest strip exposure was associated with slower reaction times and attentional errors, and that fly bait and delouser exposures predicted greater mood complaints.
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Neuropsychological functioning in military pesticide applicators from the Gulf War: Effects on information processing speed, attention and visual memory
- a Department of Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02118, United States
- b VA Boston Healthcare System, 150 South Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02130, United States
- c Department of Neurology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA 02118, United States
- d Department of Biostatistics, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02118, United States
- e Parsons Corporation, Syracuse, NY 13212, United States1
- f Ibis Reproductive Health, Boston, MA 02130, United States
- g Reliant Medical Group, Worcester, MA 01604, United States
- Received 8 April 2017, Revised 3 November 2017, Accepted 6 November 2017, Available online 7 November 2017
AcknowledgementsThis study was funded by a grant from the Department of Defense (W81XWH-04-1-0118). The opinions or assertions contained herein are the private views of the author(s) and are not to be construed as official or as reflecting the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Army or the Department of Defense. We'd also like to acknowledge the DOD Force Health Protection and Readiness office for their assistance with providing the EER-pesticides report telephone interviews and PCI information. We also wish to thank the veterans who took the time to participate in this study.***
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