Researchers Think They've Found the Cause of Gulf War Illness

After nearly 30 years of trying to prove a theory - that an environmental toxin was responsible for the illness of some 250,000 US soldiers who served in the 1990-91 Gulf War - says Dr. Robert Haley that new research confirms the nerve agent sarin caused the Gulf war sickness.
After the Gulf War, nearly a third of all first responders reported unexplained chronic symptoms such as skin rashes, fatigue, gastrointestinal and digestive problems, brain fog, neuropathy, and muscle and joint pain. Federal agencies spent years largely dismissing the idea that troops may have suffered from exposure to chemical agents, with many veterans showing symptoms that were sent to mental health providers.
But a study published last week in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives used genetic research and survey data to find that US soldiers exposed to sarin were more likely to develop Gulf War disease, and those exposed and a weaker variant of a gene that helps digest pesticides were nine times more likely to have symptoms.
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"Our results simply prove that Gulf War disease was caused by sarin released when we bombed Iraqi chemical weapons storage and production sites," said Haley, director of the Division of Epidemiology in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
"There are still more than 100,000 Gulf War veterans who are not getting help for this disease, and we hope these findings will accelerate the search for a better treatment," Haley said.
Originally developed as a pesticide, the chemical weapon sarin was known to be stockpiled by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein before and after the 1990-91 Gulf War. The synthetic nerve agent attacks the central nervous system and brain, killing victims by triggering an overreaction of neurotransmitters that causes convulsions and asphyxiation.
Thousands of coalition troops were likely exposed to sarin and cyclosarin, an organic phosphate also used as a chemical weapon, when the US demolished a bunker housing chemical weapons at the Khamisiyah ammunition dump in southern Iraq and emitted a cloud of pollutants that spread spread over a 25 mile radius. Others may have been exposed to small amounts of pollutants, as troops frequently reported chemical weapons alerts being raised without an apparent attack taking place.
In the years after the war, veterans seeking medical help from the Department of Veterans Affairs were greeted with skepticism and sent to psychiatrists for treatment of mental illness. Health surveys conducted by the VA among Gulf War veterans in the early 2010s focused primarily on questions about psychological and psychiatric symptoms.
And in 2013, veterans' suspicions of a lack of concern at the VA were confirmed when VA whistleblower and epidemiologist Steven Coughlin came forward to say the department was burying research that would link physical ailments to military service or obfuscated - a concerted effort to deny veterans health care and benefits.
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