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Gulf War Syndrome New Report

A congressionally mandated scientific panel has concluded that Gulf War syndrome is real and still afflicts nearly a quarter of the 700,000 U.S. troops who served in the 1991 conflict, according to a recently released report.

The report concluded that two chemical exposures were direct causes of the disorder: the drug pyridostigmine bromide, given to troops to protect against nerve gas, and pesticides that were widely used — and often overused — to protect against sand flies and other pests.

“The extensive body of scientific research now available consistently indicates that Gulf War illness is real, that it is a result of neurotoxic exposures during Gulf War deployment, and that few veterans have recovered or substantially improved with time,” according to the 450-page report presented to Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake.

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The report bolstered the hopes of thousands of U.S. and allied veterans who have struggled to have their varied neurological symptoms, including memory loss, concentration problems, rashes and widespread pain, recognized by the government.

The new report is the product of the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses, which was chartered by Congress because many members thought that veterans were not receiving adequate care. On the 15-member committee appointed in 2002, scientists made up about two-thirds and the rest were veterans.

The major causes of the disorder appear to be self-inflicted. Pyridostigmine bromide was given to as many as half of the troops in the fear that the Iraqis would unleash chemical warfare against them.

According to the report, at least 64 pesticides containing 37 active ingredients were used during the war. They were sprayed not only around living and dining areas, but also on tents and uniforms, White said.

The panel said it could not rule out a link between the illness and exposure to oil well fires and multiple vaccinations. But it could find no evidence linking it to depleted uranium shells, anthrax vaccine and infectious diseases.

In addition to increased rates of memory loss, fatigue and pain, Gulf War veterans have higher rates of brain cancer and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, the panel also noted.

“The tragedy here is that there are currently no treatments,” said the panel’s chairman, James H. Binns, a former principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense and a Vietnam veteran.

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