Gulf War Syndrome News Reports

The latest Gulf War Syndrome news articles. This page will be updated with more Gulf War Syndrome news articles as they appear.

Lawmaker: Poor wording in VA bill hurt victims of Gulf War Illness
Military.com, March 15, 2016
A lawmaker on Tuesday suggested Congress may have to redraft part of the initial legislation authorizing the Veterans Affairs Department to grant claims compensation to Persian Gulf War veterans suffering from multi-symptom ailments that make up Gulf War Illness. Responding to testimony showing the VA has denied compensation to more than 90 percent of veterans claiming Gulf War Illness, Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, D-New Hampshire, said it was not Congress’ intent to require VA accept an undiagnosed multi-symptom disorder as a condition. “We created this Catch-22,” Kuster said during a joint hearing of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs and Oversight and Investigations subcommittee. “It sounds like an unintended consequence of what we were trying to do to help Gulf War veterans … They had multi-symptoms and we didn’t have the science and the words” to properly describe what we wanted VA to do. Gulf War veterans and advocates say that 90 percent or more Gulf War veterans who apply for compensation for Gulf War Illness are turned down. VA officials say veterans filing claims for Gulf War Illness may still be compensated when a particular symptom or symptoms are diagnosed and service-connected. But the compensation would be for the chronic symptom — sinusitis or gastritis, for example — but not for Gulf War Illness. Congress in 1994 authorized the VA to compensate Gulf War vets suffering from a chronic disability resulting from an undiagnosed — or combination of undiagnosed illnesses — linked to service in the Gulf War. But the result, Kuster suggests, is that VA awards claims for Gulf War Illness when symptoms cannot be diagnosed. She suggested the committee could urge VA Secretary Bob McDonald to move toward a single Disability Benefits Questionnaire tailored for Gulf War Illness claims. There are currently about 70 individual DBQs, according to the VA. “But we may need to also unravel the Catch-22 we created in our attempt to help Gulf War veterans,” she said. Also during the hearing lawmakers said there is a need to extend the deadline by which Gulf War veterans need file claims for benefits for undiagnosed illnesses. The deadline period is currently Dec. 31, 2016, and lawmakers want it extended by five years. David R. McLenachen, VA Deputy Under Secretary for Disability Assistance, told the panels that McDonald has the authority to extend the deadline but was unable to say if that would happen. But Ron Brown, president of the National Gulf War Resource Center, told Military.com on Tuesday that McDonald already informed him the presumptive date would be pushed back. He said McDonald told him in a letter dated Feb. 9, 2015 that he also was concerned with the “end date” for filing. “We, once again, plan to use our existing regulatory authorities to extend the presumptive date beyond the current December 31, 2016, deadline,” McDonald wrote. “This is consistent with our beliefs, our policy and our past actions.” In 2011 then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki used the same authority to extend the date — then about to lapse — to the end of 2016. Rick Weidman, Executive Director for Policy and Governmental Affairs for Vietnam Veterans of America, likened the VA’s treatment of Gulf War Veterans to that experienced by Vietnam veterans, who were told for years that that chronic health issues were not related to exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. He said VA forces Gulf War veterans to try to link their conditions to the war when “VA knows that you cannot pin down exact cause when you have a multi-toxin environment, which is exactly what you had with the Gulf War.” The VA has relied on work from the Institute of Medicine, or IOM, in deciding how to handle Gulf War Illness, and Weidman said IOM appears predisposed to seeing the illness as psychological. During a meeting last month the IOM Gulf War panel recommended no further research into Gulf War Illness, said Weidman, who attended the meeting. He said half the member panel, along with the chair, is made up of psychologists and psychiatrists and the other by research scientists. Weidman said IOM should be conducting an epidemiology study comparing Gulf War veterans in certain military occupational specialties with troops in the same job who did not deploy to the war, as well as civilians with no military background. Brown said there has been 20 years of studies, though he does not know if one suggested by Weidman has been carried out.

VA gets ‘F’ for Persian Gulf War claims approvals
MilitaryTimes, March 15, 2016
The percent of disability claims approved by the Veterans Affairs Department for Persian Gulf War-related illnesses has declined steadily in the past five years, resulting in record lows, according to a new report from the advocacy group Veterans for Common Sense. In the first two quarters of fiscal 2015, VA denied nearly 82 percent of claims filed by Gulf War veterans for two main conditions presumed to be connected to their military service — chronic multi-symptom illness and undiagnosed illnesses. In 2011, the denial rate was 76 percent, Veterans for Common Sense director Anthony Hardie said. The low approval rates, which “approach the limited odds of winning a scratch-off lottery,” are a “complete contravention of 1998 laws passed to improve Gulf War veterans’ ability to have their claims approved,” Hardie wrote in testimony to two House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittees Tuesday. “If we measure VA’s success by how it has approved Gulf War veterans’ claims 25 years after the war, VA has failed most ill and suffering Gulf War veterans,” said Hardie, an Army veteran who served in the 1991 war as well as in Somalia. Nearly 700,000 U.S. service members deployed to the 1991 Gulf War, and 54,193 have filed disability claims for illnesses related to their service, according to a 2014 VA report. Roughly a fifth of those claims were granted, and of the denied claims 42 percent were approved for another condition other than a presumptive Gull War-related condition, according to VA. To qualify for disability compensation for Persian Gulf War-connected conditions, veterans must have developed one of a number of infectious diseases during their service or have undiagnosed chronic symptoms or a chronic disability that began either during service or after. Currently, the conditions must appear before Dec. 31, 2016, to an extent that they are at least 10 percent disabling, existed for at least six months and not be attributable to any other circumstance or cause for consideration. But during a joint hearing of the House Veterans’ Affairs oversight and investigations and the disability assistance and memorial affairs subcommittees, veterans advocates pressed for an extension of the year-end deadline as well as improvements to the claims approval process. Citing a recent report from the Institute of Medicine that found two conditions occurring in Vietnam veterans — bladder cancer and hypothyroidism — likely are linked to exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange more than 40 years ago, advocacy groups and members of Congress said the deadline should be extended for at least five years if not indefinitely. … A VA official said the department is taking the steps needed to extend the deadline but the process has not been finalized. Dave McLenachen, acting deputy undersecretary for disability assistance at VA, also said the department is working to improve claims processing for Gulf War veterans but its own internal reviews indicate a 90 percent accuracy rate for claims decisions. McLenachen added that VA has taken steps to improve and accelerate claims processing but he would return to his office to “see whether there was room for improvement.” … Rep. Mike Coffman, a Colorado Republican who served in the Persian Gulf War, pointed out that the claims process for Gulf War veterans warrants improvement since VA is failing to expedite claims designated as presumptive, a moniker that is supposed to accelerate the process, not delay it. “I am disappointed that the law was passed that a specific set of conditions is supposed to be presumptive and the VA does not appear to be following the law,” Coffman said.

Vets fight new report that calls for halt to research on ‘Gulf War Illness’
Fox News, February 23, 2016
The scene U.S. forces encountered as they entered Kuwait in February 1991 to end the Iraqi occupation was a hellish inferno, with hundreds of oil wells set ablaze by Saddam Hussein’s army to send a choking, black smoke billowing into the skies. Now, as the troops who served in the Gulf War mark its 25th anniversary on Tuesday, they are fighting a different battle. A new report once again casts doubt on the legitimacy of Gulf War Illness, an ailment afflicting hundreds of thousands of veterans of the war. “We were appalled at the new Institute of Medicine report, although not surprised,” James Binns, former chairman of the federal Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses, told FoxNews.com. The institute is a division of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and conducts research to serve private and governmental agencies, including by congressional commission. Veterans are set to testify before a congressional panel on the need for more scientific research on the illness, and are incensed at the report’s recommendation for a focus on “mind-body connectedness.” The wording has reopened an old wound caused when the Pentagon claimed the illness was mental, and not physical. An estimated 24 to 33 percent of the nearly 700,000 who served in the 1991 Gulf War have reported a condition with three hallmark symptoms: chronic fatigue, joint and muscle pain and concentration and memory difficulties. Other ailments associated with the illness include gastrointestinal problems and skin rashes. On Feb. 11, the last report issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended that “further studies to determine cause-and-effect relationships between Gulf War exposures and health conditions in Gulf War veterans should not be undertaken.” The report goes on to say “it is time research efforts focus on the [mind-body] interconnectedness.” Following more than $500 million in U.S. government-funded research on Gulf War veterans between 1994 and 2014, the report indicates that the illness and its causes are poorly understood. “Their recommendations are a complete U-turn from everything science has shown in the last 15 years of research,” Binns said. “If these recommendations were to be adopted, research would be directed away from hard science to understand the underlying mechanisms of the disease and toward psychiatric factors. “There would be no further chance to develop treatments that treat the underlying disease,” he continued. “Only treatments that would help them cope with the disease.” Binns noted that the previous 2010 IOM report had recommended hard science research to identify the mechanisms underlying the illness and find treatments, including “studies to identify … modifications of DNA structure related to environmental exposures … signatures of immune activation, or brain changes identified by sensitive imaging measures.”  

New study on Gulf War Illness assailed by veterans advocates
Bradenton Herald, February 11, 2016
Military veterans advocates are assailing a new report by the Institute of Medicine, which concludes Gulf War illness research should focus on mind-body interconnectiveness rather than genetic and environmental factors. The finding “turns science on its head,” said James Binns, former chairman of the federal Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illnesses. “It would totally reverse the progress made in the past five years in beginning to understand the illness and develop treatments for it.” The Institute of Medicine previously concluded the illness was not psychiatric, Binns said in a press release. Anthony Hardie of Bradenton, who chairs a treatment research program funded by Congress, said he was similarly alarmed by the new conclusion. “It’s the same old government theme from the 1990s to deny what happened and deny care and benefits — just when research to understand the illness and identify treatments is finally making real progress,” Hardie said in a press release. Between one-quarter and one-third of the nearly 700,000 members of the U.S. Armed Forces who drove Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi military out of Kuwait in 1990-91 may suffer from Gulf War illness. Hardie, who has testified before Congress about Gulf War illness, believes his symptoms were triggered after coming in contact with toxic agents when going through an Iraqi bunker. “It had all the classic signs of a chemical warfare agent,” Hardie told the Herald in 2014, recalling the odors he smelled in the bunker. Hardie is a passionate and effective advocate for more research on Gulf War illness, even though he suffers from chronic widespread pain, sleep disturbances, frequent infections and fatigue. Rick Weidman, executive director for Policy and Governmental Affairs for Vietnam Veterans of America, was withering in his reaction to the new conclusions. “It’s outrageous that the VA undersecretary from the 1990s, who began the policy of minimizing Gulf War illness, was on the committee, or that the committee chair was on record before she was appointed saying you can’t say what caused it. Half the committee was psychiatric advocates. It’s exactly how the effects of Agent Orange were denied for 30 years after Vietnam. We intend to seek legislation to prohibit these corrupt practices,” Weidman said in a press release. Dr. Beatrice Golcomb, professor of medicine at the University of California-San Diego, said the Institute of Medicine failed to look at all relevant studies. “This ‘don’t look, don’t find’ practice has been a consistent problem in IOM Gulf War reports,” she said in a press release. Roskamp Institute in Manatee County has been studying the effects of Gulf War illness. “We try to mimic the disease in people with mice,” Fiona Crawford, president of Roskamp Institute, told the Herald in 2014. Roskamp researchers expose mice to the same agents soldiers were exposed to in the Gulf War. Roskamp also sought to find veterans to participate in its research, not only with Gulf War illness, but traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer’s disease. Veterans exposed to chemicals, including nerve gas and nerve agent pretreatment pills, are more likely to be ill and have more severe illnesses. Exposure to related chemicals in civilian settings has produced similar chronic health problems, Golomb said. Researchers say treating Gulf War illness is difficult because symptoms vary from one person to another. Roskamp researchers have said their work is being used to develop a panel of biomarkers for Gulf War illness.

Panel to VA: Stop studying causes of Gulf War illnesses, focus on treatment
Military Times, February 11, 2016
A scientific panel has concluded that the Veterans Affairs Department should stop searching for links between environmental exposures in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and veterans’ illnesses and instead focus on monitoring and treating those who have health problems related to deploying 25 years ago. In a report released Thursday, Institute of Medicine researchers said Gulf War veterans are at increased risk for developing some physical and psychological health conditions like post-traumatic stress, anxiety, Gulf War illness and chronic fatigue syndrome, but other diseases like cancer, respiratory illnesses and most neurodegenerative conditions do not appear to occur at higher rates in these former troops. Without concrete information on each Gulf War veteran’s exposure and the unlikely prospect of ever having the data, VA should focus instead on following this group as members age and treat illnesses that develop, panelists said. According to the report, the federal government has spent more than $500 million since 1994 to study Gulf War veterans’ health but “there has been little substantial progress in our overall understanding of the health effects” from the 1990-1991 deployments. Thus, “without definitive and verifiable individual veteran exposure information, further studies to determine cause-and-effect relationships between Gulf War exposures and health conditions in Gulf War veterans should not be undertaken,” wrote the panel of researchers, including experts in environmental health, epidemiology and medicine. Future research, they added, should focus on personalized care for veterans, follow-up assessments and treatment. The panel’s top recommendation also said VA should thoroughly study the “mind-body” connection of disease. “Any future studies of Gulf War illness should recognize the connections and complex relationships between brain and physical functioning and should not exclude any aspect of the illness with regard to improving its diagnosis and treatment,” panelists noted. The new report has outraged advocates for veterans who suffer from illnesses stemming from their service in the 1990-1991 operation. They argue the report reflects a bias among the panel toward VA and panelists were selective in choosing which studies they reviewed for the study, “Gulf War and Health, Volume 10: Update of Health Effects of Serving in the Gulf War, 2016.” … “The science is unequivocal, if viewed honestly and in its totality: Toxic exposures were responsible,” said Dr. Beatrice Golomb, a professor of medicine at the University of California-San Diego and former scientific director for the VA’s Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illness. “But the IOM doesn’t look at all relevant studies. This ‘don’t look, don’t find’ practice has been a consistent problem in IOM Gulf War reports.” The report examined studies on myriad diseases and their prevalence in Gulf War veterans as well as those who did not deploy. The panel then categorized these illnesses on a spectrum ranging from the strongest link — “sufficient evidence of a causal relationship” — to “inadequate or insufficient evidence to determine an association.” Post-traumatic stress disorder was the only condition the panel found to be caused by Gulf War deployment. The group also found sufficient evidence of an association for generalized anxiety disorder, depression, substance abuse, gastrointestinal symptoms, chronic fatigue syndrome and Gulf War illness, a catch-all term used to describe undiagnosed symptoms in Gulf War veterans. According to the report, there also is “limited but suggestive” evidence that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, fibromalygia and chronic pain and self-reported sexual dysfunction are related to Gulf War deployment. But it found little or no evidence that cancer, skin conditions, birth defects, musculoskeletal system diseases, multiple sclerosis and other illnesses were related. … About a quarter of the war’s 700,000 veterans developed symptoms after deployment that include chronic headaches, widespread pain, memory loss, persistent fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, skin conditions and mood disturbances. Researchers have determined that environmental factors, such as chemical exposures in the region, including sarin gas, pesticides and anti-nerve-agent pills, may have played a role in development of diseases among some troops. Anthony Hardie, a Gulf War veteran and director of Veterans for Common Sense, said the new report refutes earlier studies and is insulting to those who served as well as widows of those who have died from diseases like brain cancer and ALS. “It’s the same old government theme from the 1990s to deny what happened and deny care and benefits — just when research to understand the illness and identify treatments is finally making real progress,” Hardie said.

Report: Toxic exposures caused illness in Gulf War veterans
Medical Xpress, January 26, 2016
Twenty-five years after 700,000 U.S. troops fought and won the first Gulf War with remarkably low casualties, research “clearly and consistently” shows that exposure to pesticides and other toxins caused Gulf War Illness, a complex and debilitating disorder that affects as many as 250,000 of those deployed, according to a new report led by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher. In a special issue of the journal Cortex that coincides with the 25th anniversary of the war, Roberta White, professor of environmental health at BUSPH, and colleagues from a dozen other institutions comprehensively review studies on Gulf War Illness (GWI), especially those since 2008. They conclude that exposure to pesticides and ingestion of pyridostigmine bromide (PB) – prophylactic pills intended to protect troops against the effects of possible nerve gas—are “causally associated with GWI and the neurological dysfunction in Gulf War veterans.” The research team also cites multiple studies showing a link between veterans’ neurological problems and exposure to the nerve-gas agents sarin and cyclosarin, as well as to oil well fire emissions. These “toxic wounds” resulted in damage to veterans’ nervous systems and immune systems, including neuroendocrine and immune dysregulation, autonomic nervous system irregularities, and reduced white and gray matter in veterans’ brains, the review says. White and colleagues have been studying the health of troops deployed in the 1991 Gulf War for more than 20 years to determine why so many of them suffer from a multi-system disorder characterized by fatigue, joint and muscle pain, headaches, concentration and memory problems, gastrointestinal distress, and skin rashes. They note that effective treatments for the illness have been elusive, but that a recent treatment research effort has begun to produce promising leads. “Further research into the mechanisms and etiology of the health problems of (Gulf War) veterans is critical to developing biomarkers of exposure and illness, and preventing similar problems for military personnel in future deployments. This information is also critical for developing new treatments for GWI and related neurological dysfunction,” they write. In 2008, a Congressionally mandated panel directed by White—the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses—issued a landmark report concluding that Gulf War Illness was a “real” disorder, distinct from stress-related syndromes, and urging a robust research effort into its causes and potential cures. Gulf War veterans have complained for years that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has not taken the illness seriously. In terms of toxic exposures, the authors note, six out of seven research studies have found “significant associations between self-reported pesticide exposure and GWI.” Similarly, ingestion of PB pills dispensed by the military has been “consistently linked to ill health in GW veteran populations.” James Binns, a co-author of the report and former chairman of the Research Advisory Committee, equated the main causes of GWI to “friendly fire.” ”We did it to ourselves,” Binns said. “Pesticides, PB, nerve gas released by destroying Iraqi facilities—all are cases of friendly fire. That may explain why government and military leaders have been so reluctant to acknowledge what happened, just as they tried to cover up Agent Orange after Vietnam. Certainly, the government should have been facing the problem honestly and doing research from the start to identify diagnostic tests and treatments.” In the report, the research team notes that in addition to veterans suffering from GWI, other deployed troops from the first Gulf War report a variety of neurological disorders, either in conjunction with GWI or as separate ailments. Studies have found that deployed troops suffer a higher incidence of stroke, brain cancer and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), compared to non-deployed veterans. The VA’s own study, published in 2009, found that deployed veterans were diagnosed with seizures, stroke and neuralgia at higher rates than non-deployed service members. Other studies have found excess rates of brain structure alterations and brain cancer deaths among veterans who had the greatest exposure to nerve agents or oil fire smoke. The report makes clear that psychiatric problems “have been ruled out” as a cause of Gulf War Illness, noting that Gulf War veterans have lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psychiatric disorders than their counterparts who served in other wars. The research team says that a number of studies using diagnostic imaging and EEG probes have identified “structural and electrical abnormalities” in the central nervous systems of deployed troops with GWI. Fourteen of 15 papers published since 2008 support that conclusion, the report says. White and colleagues say that overall, the research to date supports the conclusion that veterans are suffering from a “persistent pathology due to chemical intoxication.” They say further research into GWI could benefit other occupational groups, such as farmers and insecticide applicators, who have similar exposures. White said she is hopeful that new research efforts will lead to effective treatments, especially as veterans age and are at increased risk of neuro-degenerative diseases. ”It is critical that we develop treatments that will improve or at least stabilize these neurologic conditions,” she said.

DNA damage may play a role in Gulf War Syndrome
U.S. News & World Report, September 23, 2015
Unexplained chronic fatigue, muscle pain and problems with thinking are experienced by a quarter of Gulf War veterans, and new research suggests exposure to DNA-damaging chemicals may cause this condition, known as Gulf War Syndrome. Previous studies have suggested that the symptoms stem from a malfunction of mitochondria, the site in cells where molecules that power the body are made. The mitochondria have their own DNA, separate from the cell’s. Increases in mitochondrial DNA damage the mitochondria’s ability to produce energy, leaving the individual feeling slow and tired. And the new study found direct evidence of increased damage to this cell powerhouse among Gulf War vets. Researchers analyzed blood samples to measure the amount of mitochondrial DNA and degree of damage to this DNA among veterans with Gulf War Illness (GWI). The vets not only had more mitochondrial DNA, but also more mitochondrial DNA damage than otherwise healthy adults, the researchers found. Study author Yang Chen, a doctoral researcher at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences in New Jersey, presented the findings at a recent meeting of the American Psychological Association in Tampa, Fla. “Future studies are necessary to confirm these findings and determine their association with mitochondrial function. Work in this area may guide new diagnostic testing and treatments for veterans suffering from GWI,” the study’s authors wrote.

Gulf War Syndrome patients treated with experimental light therapy
Medical Daily, April 3, 2015
Since 1990, thousands of veterans, press, and government employees who participated in the first Gulf war have reported symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome. Short term memory loss, poor concentration, and an inability to take in information — collectively referred to as cognitive dysfunction — rank high among the most frequently reported signs of the illness. Today, a group of researchers at the VA Boston Healthcare System are testing the effects of light therapy on veterans who continue to experience cognitive symptoms. Though investigational, the therapy has been used before by some alternative medical practitioners for physical symptoms. In this case, veterans wear a helmet lined with light-emitting diodes (LED) that apply red and near-infrared light to the scalp. Past studies have shown the light boosts output of nitric oxide, which improves blood flow, wherever the LEDs are placed. During treatment, veterans also have diodes placed inside their nostrils, to deliver photons to their brain. Painless, the light also generates no heat. A single treatment takes about 30 minutes. “It’s always been used on the body, for wound healing and to treat muscle aches and pains, and joint problems,” Dr. Margaret Naeser, lead investigator of the new study and a research professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, stated in a press release. “We’re starting to use it on the brain.”

Study links genetics, anti-nerve agent pills to Gulf War Syndrome
Military Times, Jan. 27, 2015
A small research study at Baylor University has identified a genetic difference between veterans who developed symptoms of Gulf War illness after deploying to that 1990-91 conflict and those who deployed but didn’t get sick. The finding — touted as the first “direct evidence” that genetic factors may contribute to a veteran’s risk for Gulf War illness — links the use of anti-nerve agent pills and troops’ genetic makeup. Baylor University Institute of Biomedical Studies researcher Lea Steele and others examined the genetic profile of 304 Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm veterans, including 144 former troops who had Gulf War illness symptoms and 160 who did not. The scientists found that veterans with a gene variant that complicates their bodies’ efforts to metabolize chemicals in anti-nerve agent pills — pyridostigmine bromide, or PB — were up to 40 times more likely to have Gulf War illness symptoms than those who took the pills or were exposed but had a different gene variant. Steele said the findings are preliminary but point to a physical reason why as many as one in four troops who deployed to the region fell ill while others came through fine. “Scientists have long thought this might be because of some genetic interaction. We know different people break down toxicants differently based on their genotypes,” Steele said. Researchers looked at genetic variants that “program” a body to break down certain chemicals found in PB, Sarin nerve gas and some pesticides. In high doses, these toxins can be fatal, but anti-nerve agents such as PB contain low levels of these chemicals, which bind with nerve receptors to shield an individual from the effects of a nerve agent. The research found that those with a less active genetic variant for the enzyme butyrylcholinesterase were more likely to have Gulf War illness symptoms.

VA revamps Gulf War Illness advisory committee
AZCentral.com, Jan. 16, 2015
Veterans’ advocates were encouraged Friday by the addition of four new members to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses. The closely watched committee proposes and reviews research on veteran health issues associated with the first Gulf War. The committee’s recommendations are expected to set the course for treatment and compensation for as many as 250,000 troops who served in the war in Kuwait and Iraq in 1990 and 1991. The new appointees: Stephen L. Hauser, chairman of the Department of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco; Ronnie D. Horner, professor of epidemiology at the University of South Carolina; Frances E. Perez-Wilhite, a former Army officer who served during the Gulf War; and Scott S. Young, a former Navy flight surgeon who served during the war and now heads Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute. The committee’s former longtime chairman, Phoenix resident and Vietnam War veteran James H. Binns, and other members were vocal in their concern last year that VA administrators were replacing members in an effort to steer the panel away from science. U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and four other members of Miller’s panel, including Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., urged VA Secretary Bob McDonald to retain Binns and other outgoing Gulf War committee members for at least a year. McDonald moved forward with efforts to rotate some members anyway. Binns gave positive reviews to VA’s new appointees, who were announced Thursday. “I would like to believe that this is because they now want to do the right thing. Hopefully, other steps will follow that show this is the case. But I don’t think this would be happening if we weren’t pushing them and if it weren’t in the public eye,” Binns said.

A pill for Gulf War Syndrome?
San Diego Union-Tribune, Dec. 3, 2014
More than 20 years after Operation Desert Storm, at least 175,000 U.S. military veterans claim a broad range of mysterious symptoms known as Gulf War Syndrome. Doctors have voiced skepticism about their complaints, which include fatigue, digestive distress and recall problems. Sure, some physicians say, a lot of civilians have those health challenges, too — especially as they age. But a UC San Diego physician has long taken a different view, and now her research is focusing on a possible treatment in the form of a simple, over-the-counter supplement. Dr. Beatrice Golomb, a professor and researcher with the university’s medical school, recently published a study that showed some success against the syndrome with a high-quality brand of coenzyme Q10. “It’s not a cure,” said Golomb, who became interested in Gulf War Syndrome during the late 1990s while working as a scholar at RAND Corp. “But by boosting cell energy and antioxidation, it does mitigate symptoms.” Gulf War Syndrome is the term for illnesses reported by many troops returning from the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War. At least 14,000 veterans of that era live in the San Diego region. The list of health complaints includes lethargy, muscle pain, weakness, gastrointestinal problems, skin maladies and decreased cognitive function, including memory difficulties. The trouble for Gulf War veterans is that symptoms often defy easy explanation. Over time, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has acknowledged Gulf War illnesses with disability benefits. A diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, functional gastrointestinal disorder or headaches with no known cause can result in a VA disability rating. And the VA doesn’t require proof that those conditions were caused by something that happened in the Gulf area — only that the veteran served there.

Researchers Come Closer to Understanding Gulf War Illness
WGCU-Florida NPR, July 31, 2014
Scientists are coming closer to understanding a disease that continues to affect Gulf War veterans. The Roskamp Institute’s work in Sarasota is based on the idea that veterans first came in contact with the disease more than twenty years ago. In early 1991, then-Sergeant Anthony Hardie found himself in a bunker north of Kuwait Bay. The bunker had a distinct smell. It smelled like geraniums, but he couldn’t really place it at the time. Really, he was having problems focusing at all. “It was strangely beautiful so I kept sniffing it, trying to think ‘Well, what is this smell?’…I couldn’t remember and I would start the thought again and each time I would start the thought, I would get less far into the thought,” he said. There were other things about the bunker that stood out to Hardie. Signs the previous residents left in a hurry- uneaten food still on plates, sleeping bags left behind. But, it was the smell that stuck with him most – sometimes it would switch to the scent of onions. The symptoms started that night. “I coughed up what I thought to be lung tissue at that time…but it was most likely sloughing off,” he said. “It was probably blistering in my lungs and lung tissue.” It was only years later, that he learned the Iraqi army had perfected a combination of lewisite and mustard gas during their almost eight-year-long altercation with Iran. And the chemical weapons had distinct smells: geraniums and onions. Hardie was honorably discharged in 1993 at the end of his contract. But, respiratory and fatigue issues – among other things –plague him to this day.

VA Rejects Link Between Gulf War Service, Cancers
USA Today, July 8, 2014
The Department of Veterans Affairs turned down a request from members of Congress and veterans advocates to make brain cancer, lung cancer and migraines presumptive conditions for Gulf War veterans. Officials said they cannot prove the high rate of these illnesses among Gulf War vets are related to military service. VA officials said the number of brain cancer deaths for soldiers exposed to sarin gas was too low to be conclusive, though it was double the rate of soldiers not exposed. And the rate of lung cancer deaths, though 15 percent higher than those who did not serve in the 1991 Gulf War, is “inconclusive” because researchers did not know how many of the servicemembers smoke. “I’m disappointed with their decision, but hold out hope that further studies will convince the VA,” Rep. Timothy Walz, D-Minn., told USA Today. If a veteran is diagnosed with a presumptive condition, Veterans Affairs is required to assume that it is military-connected, and that the veteran is then entitled to medical or disability benefits associated with the diagnosis. Those exposed to smoke after Saddam Hussein set his oil wells on fire, as well as to sarin gas after the U.S. bombed a munitions plant in Khamisayah, Iraq, saw an increased risk of brain cancer, according to a study Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., and Walz cited in letters to former VA secretary Eric Shinseki in March. As many as 100,000 troops may have been exposed to sarin, a nerve agent, according to the Defense Department, but a recent study shows more may have been affected. Gulf War vets also saw a “significant relative excess” of lung cancer, according to a second study. And a third study showed that veterans with chronic fatigue syndrome or Gulf War Illness were likely to also suffer migraines, the lawmakers wrote.

New Report Lauds Treatment Research, Confirms Toxic Causes
Science Daily, April 28, 2014
Progress has been made toward understanding the physiological mechanisms that underlie Gulf War illness and identifying possible treatments, according to a report released Monday by a Congressionally mandated panel of scientific experts and veterans. Treatment research has increased significantly since 2008, and “early results provide encouraging signs that the treatment goals identified in the 2010 Institute of Medicine report are achievable,” the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (RAC) said in a report presented Monday to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki by the Committee’s scientific director, Roberta White, chair of environmental health at the Boston University School of Public Health. The Institute, part of the National Academies of Sciences, had forecast that “treatments, cures, and hopefully preventions” could likely be found with the right research. The RAC report updates scientific research published since the Committee’s landmark report in 2008, which established that Gulf War illness was a real condition, affecting as many as 250,000 veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War. “The conclusions of the 2008 RAC report had a substantial impact on scientific and clinical thinking about Gulf War illness, as well as the public acceptance of this disorder,” said White. The earlier report documented a number of studies that found evidence linking the illness to exposure to pesticides and pyridostigmine bromide (found in anti-nerve gas pills given to troops), as well as other toxic sources. “Studies published since 2008 continue to support the conclusion that Gulf War illness is causally related to chemical exposures in the combat theater,” White said of the new report. “And many studies of the brain and central nervous system, using imaging, EEG and other objective measures of brain structure and function, add to the existing evidence that central nervous system dysfunction is a critical element in the disorder. Evidence also continues to point to immunological effects of Gulf War illness.”

Gulf War Illness: Thousands Still Report Symptoms
El Paso Times, April 21, 2014
Army veterans Michael Patiño and David Garcia, who served in the Persian Gulf during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, say they still suffer health problems related to their service in the war. Garcia, a retired warrant officer, began to experience unusual ailments during Desert Shield, the advance operation for the war in 1990, and was medically evacuated shortly after his unit’s trek through the infamous “highway of death” in Iraq. “I had severe post traumatic stress,” Garcia said, “and I also began to experience short-term memory loss and severe fatigue. We saw literally hundreds of bodies of Iraqis on that road during the ground invasion, which took place after the bombing campaign. No one today ever saw that much death. We tried to maneuver around the bodies with our vehicles, but it wasn’t always possible.” A total of 694,550 soldiers were deployed to the Persian Gulf region during the 1991 war, including service members from Fort Bliss and National Guard soldiers and reservists from the El Paso and Southern New Mexico region. Gulf War-era soldiers who were not deployed to the Persian Gulf also reported similar health complaints, adding to the mystery over the source of the illness. The Veterans Affairs Department reported that there were 148 battle deaths during Desert Storm. To address the health complaints of veterans, U.S. officials set up the Gulf War Registry, which involved self-reporting the kinds of ailments that the veterans had. Garcia, who became a veteran advocate with the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), had two of the hallmark symptoms commonly reported by Gulf War veterans shortly after the war: short-term memory loss and debilitating fatigue. “I still have to write things down because I forget,” said Garcia, an officer for the DAV in Northeast El Paso. “We served in one of the most toxic environments ever known to the military. I managed to stick it out with these things going on until I finished serving my 20 years in the active service. Now, I act like a big brother to the new and younger veterans, helping them with their paperwork and referring to the proper agencies.” Patiño, 48, who operates the Rock House Art Gallery in Downtown El Paso, was medically discharged after 10 years of service. After more than 20 years, his flashbacks from the war have not gone away although they occur less frequently. “I am more fortunate than some of my friends from high school who served with me, and who were around the same age when we started,” Patiño said. “Six of them developed health problems and died. I’ve had two heart attacks, the first one when I was 29 or 30 years old.” The collection of ailments that active duty soldiers and veterans reported after the operation to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait ended in 1991 were known as Gulf War syndrome, Gulf War illness and most recently, as chronic multi-symptom illness. Other symptoms the soldiers reported were confusion, severe joint pain, lupus, Lou Gehrig’s’ disease, depression, hair loss, multiple sclerosis, among others.

For Soldiers With Gulf War Illness, a Clue to the Mystery In Their Cells
Newsweek, March 29, 2014
As a kid, Adam Such knew he wanted to join the military when he grew up. And after graduating from West Point in 1989, he went on to have a career that included 17 years in special operations, which he discovered he “had a passion” for, he says. Such served in the first Gulf War, the 2003 Iraq War, and other places, too. In Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004, his helicopter was shot down, resulting in a broken back. But in the years after his time in the first Gulf War, he began to realize that something didn’t feel right about his health. “By the mid-90s,” he recalled, “I absolutely recognized a significant degradation in my stamina, my focus, my concentration; the worst part was what’s now termed fibromyalgia… because it’s everywhere.” His symptoms also included joint pain. But, he says, he was a typical soldier: you tough through things, and you don’t look for “externals” to explain your problems. He had thought of the tiredness as what he calls “the post-deployment fatigue”—just a result of pushing his body—but now he knows better: eventually he was diagnosed with Gulf War Illness. Once known as Gulf War Syndrome, Gulf War Illness is now a diagnosis recognized by the Veterans Administration. But it remains a perplexing sickness. It can display as an array of seemingly unrelated symptoms, including headache, gastrointestinal problems, pain, and fatigue — and its onset can be many years after exposure. Roberta White, a professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health, calls the disease a “complex illness” as the underlying biological processes are not precisely clear. More than 700,000 troops were deployed in the Gulf War, and the Department of Defense estimates that “as many as 200,000 veterans” of that conflict might be affected. Treatment is difficult, and not all veterans show the same symptoms, with the same severity, nor respond to treatments in the same way. And assigning blame is difficult. It’s nearly impossible to figure out whether exposure to a specific substance can cause any given case of Gulf War Illness. However, many vets remember things from their tours that didn’t—and still don’t—sit right. One Gulf War veteran, Melissa Forsythe (a retired colonel who now is the program manager for the Department of Defense Gulf War Illness Research Program) recalls the burning oil wells: “you could taste it, in your mouth,” she tells Newsweek. “If you blew your nose, it came out black.” Forsythe knows of another veteran who was in a recently-vacated Iraqi bunker when he noticed a distinct scent: “geraniums and onions.” That was probably from mustard gas and another nerve agent, she says. Another veteran, Andy Berdy, a now-retired colonel who commanded a battalion in the war, spoke of feeling “tired all the time” after he retired, and would experience “momentary blackouts.” As for the causes of his illness, “Something happened in our deployment in Desert Storm,” he says. Berdy brought up a specific anti-nerve-agent pill he took (which in the middle of their deployment they were urgently told to stop taking) or as well as agricultural chemicals he was exposed to after spending weeks in fox holes dug into soil near the Euphrates River.

Damaged Mitochondria May Be to Blame For Gulf War Syndrome
Discover, March 27, 2014
Doctors have struggled for decades to find a cause for a host of debilitating health problems experienced by veterans of the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War. As many as a third of servicemen and women deployed overseas during the conflict have complained of symptoms such as chronic headaches and crippling fatigue. Much of the most promising recent research, such as a 2013 study on pain processing, has focused on the brain, identifying significant differences between Gulf War syndrome (GWS) sufferers and the general population. For the first time, however, researchers have now shown that individuals with GWS have impaired cellular components called mitochondria throughout their bodies. Mitochondria, present in nearly all of our cells, convert energy into useable forms and are involved in both cell division and cell death. Previous research has established that mitochondrial impairment can lead to brain, heart and endocrinal damage, among other serious problems. Mitochondrial damage has been suggested as a potential cause of GWS but never previously proven in individuals diagnosed with the syndrome. Only 14 participants took part in the study: seven veterans diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome and a control group of seven healthy civilians. Acknowledging the small sample size, the researchers say the results were still significant because GWS and control individuals were matched 1:1 for age, sex and ethnicity.

Congress seeks independence for Gulf War illness board
USA Today, March 14, 2014
Two representatives introduced an act Friday seeking more autonomy for a board that provides oversight on Gulf War illness research after Veterans Affairs limited the board’s charge. “As a Gulf War veteran, I’ve been extremely disappointed at the actions of VA staff to misdirect Gulf War illnesses research by reviving the scientifically discredited concept that ‘the same thing happens after every war,’ and to eliminate oversight, just as science is finally making some progress,” said Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo. Coffman served with the Marine Corps. The Gulf War Health Research Reform Act of 2014, co-sponsored by Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., seeks to make the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses an independent committee within the VA, requires that a majority of the board’s members be appointed by the committee’s chairman, and returns oversight responsibilities for Gulf War illness research. It also asks that the VA consider animal studies when looking at toxic exposures, “as Congress has previously ordered.” “This includes ensuring the VA conducts objective research on chronic illnesses experienced by Gulf War veterans, in an effort to find treatments that can make a difference in their quality of life,” Kirkpatrick said. The act follows a year of animosity between the VA and the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (RAC), an independent body charged with overseeing the VA’s Gulf War illness research. In the past year, the VA has replaced all but one of the board members, ended Jim Binns’ tenure as the board’s chairman, removed the board’s charge to review the effectiveness of the VA, and pushed research that looks at stress as a cause, rather than environmental factors. Earlier this month, the VA told the board they must have the VA’s written approval before releasing any reports. Soon after, they removed the board chairman’s research report from a letter he wrote to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

Researchers Find Biological Evidence of Gulf War Illnesses
New York Times, June 14, 2013
In the two decades since the 1991 Persian Gulf war, medical researchers have struggled to explain a mysterious amalgam of problems in thousands of gulf war veterans, including joint pain, physical malaise and gastrointestinal disorders. In some medical circles, the symptoms were thought to be psychological, the result of combat stress. But recent research is bolstering the view that the symptoms, known collectively as gulf war illness, are fundamentally biological in nature. In the latest example, researchers at Georgetown University say they have found neurological damage in gulf war veterans reporting symptoms of the disease. Using magnetic resonance imaging to study the brains of gulf war veterans before and after exercise, the researchers discovered evidence of damage in parts of their brains associated with heart rate and pain. Such damage was not evident in the control group, which included nonveterans and healthy veterans. Such neurological damage, the researchers theorize, caused the veterans to be more sensitive to pain, to feel easily fatigued and to experience loss of short-term “working memory,” all symptoms associated with gulf war illness. Their study, published by the online medical journal PLoS One on Friday, does not try to explain the causes of the damage. It also found different patterns of damage in two groups of veterans, indicating that the disease — if it is indeed a single ailment — takes different paths in different people. But the authors said the findings, along with other recent research, may offer clues in developing treatments and diagnostic tests for the illness, which currently is diagnosed through self-reported symptoms and has no definitive treatment.

Report Defines How Care and Services Are Provided to Gulf War Veterans
Veterans Affairs, May 24, 2013
Today, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced that the Department’s Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses Task Force will publish a comprehensive draft report in the Federal Register for public feedback and comment.  The report describes how the Department of Veterans Affairs has been, and will continue to address the concerns of Veterans who deployed during the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991. “We know Gulf War Veterans are experiencing critical long-term medical issues that are complex and difficult to label,” said Shinseki.  “VA has learned a great deal over the past 20 years about identifying, diagnosing and treating Gulf War Veterans, and we will continue to evaluate our research and clinical findings to ensure we keep providing world-class health care and benefits for Gulf War Veterans.” Over the past several years, the Task Force has refined an integrated roadmap to better synchronize efforts and improve care and services to Gulf War Veterans. VA is working towards these efforts becoming a part of the culture and operations. This year’s report continues to focus on efforts to improve health care for Gulf War Veterans including innovative enhancements to clinical care.  The draft report identifies seven specific areas where VA will strive to improve services for Gulf War Veterans.   The seven areas focus on important components of health care, such as Veteran-centric approaches to specialty and primary care, delivering Veteran benefits, and improving open communications with Gulf War Veterans.  The Task Force also developed plans to improve linkages between specialty knowledge and services at the basic point of care to address treatment for chronic multi-symptom illness, an ongoing concern of Gulf War Veterans, their families and their providers.

Whistleblower: VA Hiding Veteran Health Data on Environmental Toxins, Hazards
Military.com, March 14, 2013
A former epidemiologist for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs told lawmakers on Wednesday that the agency’s Office of Public Health buries or obscures research findings on veterans exposed to environmental toxins and hazards going as far back as the Persian Gulf War. Steven Coughlin, who had worked more than four years for the VA before quitting over “serious ethical concerns” in December, said in testimony that leadership in the agency’s public health office did not want to find or reveal evidence that Gulf War illness and other sicknesses were linked to troops’ military experience. “On the rare occasions when embarrassing study results are released, data are manipulated to make them unintelligible,” he told the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Coughlin said his former office never released findings of a $10 million study that produced data on 60,000 Iraq and Afghan war vets – of which up to 30 percent were Gulf War vets – that revealed exposures to pesticides, oil well fires and more. He said the results of a congressionally mandated study on Gulf War veterans and their family members also was never released, and claims he was advised that “these results have been permanently lost.” “Anything that supports the position that Gulf War illness is a neurological condition is unlikely to ever be published,” he said. One of Couglin’s former supervisors, Dr. Aaron Schneiderman, threatened retaliation against him after he balked at the idea of deliberately leaving out certain relevant data in a research project, Coughlin said.

Gulf War Syndrome, Other Illnesses Among Veterans May Be Due to Toxic Environments
Huffington Post, February 7, 2013
In 1991, as part of Operation Desert Storm, former U.S. Army Spc. Candy Lovett arrived in Kuwait a healthy 29-year-old eager to serve her country. Two decades later, she’s accumulated a stack of medical records over five feet high — none of which relates to injuries inflicted by bullets or shrapnel. “It’s just been one thing after another,” said the veteran, who now resides in Miami and whose ailments run the gamut from lung disease and sleep apnea to, most recently, terminal breast cancer. “At one point,” she said, “I was on over 50 pills.” Former Air Force Tech. Sgt. Tim Wymore, who was deployed to Iraq in 2004, suffers from an array of health problems that mirror Lovett’s. “Everyone has the same things,” said Wymore, who has inexplicably shed 40 pounds in the last few months. “It’s just weird.” Wymore and Lovett — and countless others who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the desert region over the past three decades — have struggled to understand this, but they share one nagging conviction: These ailments are tied to service in a war zone. Their suspicions — long rebuffed by insurance companies — are now getting support from some doctors and environmental health researchers, who suspect that American soldiers are being unnecessarily exposed to heavily contaminated environments while serving overseas. Even when not engaged directly in combat, they say, servicemen and women — typically without protective masks or other simple precautions — live and work amid clouds of Middle Eastern dust laden with toxic metals, bacteria and viruses, and surrounded by plumes of smoke rising from burn pits,  a common U.S. military practice of burning feces, plastic bottles and other solid waste in open pits, often with jet fuel. Research published in December 2012 raises the possibility that in some instances, soldiers may have been exposed to airborne cocktails that included low levels of a deadly chemical warfare agent, the nerve gas sarin, which wafted hundreds of miles from U.S.-bombed Iraqi facilities.

Report: New Vets Showing Gulf War Illness Symptoms
USA Today, January 23, 2013
Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may be suffering from the 20-year-old set of symptoms known as Gulf War Illness, according to a new report released Wednesday by the federal Institute of Medicine. “Preliminary data suggest that (chronic multisymptom illness) is occurring in veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as well,” the report says. This may be the first time that the symptoms suffered by veterans of the 1991 Gulf War have been linked to veterans of the current wars, which started in 2001 and 2003, said Paul Rieckhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. It also means the Department of Veterans Affairs’ definition of who qualifies for Gulf War veterans’ benefits should include those who served in Afghanistan, said Paul Sullivan, a 1991 Gulf War veteran and founder of Veterans for Common Sense. Because Wednesday’s report associates the symptoms with deployment, Sullivan said, the VA “should expand the geographical definition of the current Gulf War to include the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The researchers investigated treatments for Gulf War illness, including any existing research, to see what worked for veterans. Their research included traumatic brain injury, which is caused by blunt force to the head or proximity to an explosion; post-traumatic stress disorder, which must involve exposure to trauma; respiratory problems, fibromyalgia and chronic pain. Chronic multisymptom illness was formerly called Gulf War Syndrome, the Institute of Medicine report said. It includes symptoms in at least two of six categories: fatigue, mood and cognition issues, musculoskeletal problems, gastrointestinal problems, respiratory difficulties and neurologic issues that last for at least six months.

Another Gulf War Syndrome?
Mother Jones, March/April 2010
Before her last deployment, 31-year-old Staff Sergeant Danielle Nienajadlo passed her Army physical with flying colors. So when she started having health problems several weeks after arriving at Balad Air Base in Iraq, no one knew what to make of her symptoms: headaches that kept her awake; unexplained bruises all over her body; an open sore on her back that wouldn’t heal; vomiting and weight loss. In July 2008, after three miserable months, Nienajadlo checked into the base emergency room with a 104-degree fever. She was sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and learned she had been diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, a fast-progressing form of the disease. She told her doctors and her family she had felt fine until she started inhaling the oily black smoke that spewed out of the base’s open-air trash-burning facility day and night. At times, the plume contained dioxins, some of which can cause the kind of cancer Nienajadlo had. “She breathed in this gunk,” says her mother, Lindsay Weidman. “She’d go back to the hooch at night to go to bed and cough up these black chunks.” In the past 17 months, more than 500 veterans have contacted Disabled American Veterans (DAV), a national nonprofit serving vets, to report illnesses they blame on the burn pits. Throughout Iraq and Afghanistan, contractors—many of the burn pits are operated by companies like former Halliburton subsidiary KBR—have dumped hundreds of tons of refuse into giant open-air trenches, doused the piles with fuel, and left them to burn. The trash includes plastic, metal, asbestos, batteries, tires, unexploded ordnance, medical waste, even entire trucks. (The military now operates several actual incinerators and has made efforts to create recycling programs, but the majority of war-zone trash is still burned in pits.) On Burn Pits Action Center, a website operated by the staff of Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.)—who learned of the problem via the reporting of Army Times writer Kelly Kennedy in 2008—GIs describe dumping rat poison, hydraulic fluid, and pressure-treated wood into the pits. “When the question was raised about what we were off-loading for burning, the answer was along the lines of ‘Don’t worry about it as the heat will burn up the bad stuff so it isn’t a threat,'” reported Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class John Wingfield, who served near Balad in 2004 and 2005.

Study: 80 Percent In Air Force Women Sample Suffering from Gulf War Syndrome
Science Daily, August 15, 2008
More than 80 percent of a sample of Air Force women deployed in Iraq and other areas around the world report suffering from persistent fatigue, fever, hair loss and difficulty concentrating, according to a University of Michigan study. The pattern of health problems reported by 1,114 women surveyed in 2006 and 2007 is similar to many symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome, the controversial condition reported by veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. “It is possible that some unknown environmental factor is the cause of current health problems and of Gulf War Syndrome,” said U-M researcher Penny Pierce. “But it is also possible that these symptoms result from the stress of military deployment, especially prolonged and multiple deployments.” Pierce and U-M colleagues conducted a similar study of women veterans in 1992 following that war to assess the impact of deployment and combat exposure on physical and mental health. An associate professor at the U-M School of Nursing and a faculty associate at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR), Pierce is also a colonel in the Air Force Reserve Program. With ISR psychologist Lisa Lewandowski-Romps, she presented the findings from the study Aug. 14 in Boston at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association. “Women now comprise approximately 15 percent of our nation’s armed forces,” Pierce said. “And since the Persian Gulf War, combat roles for women have expanded substantially. This study is an attempt to understand the impact of deployment and war-related stressors on the health of military women.”

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