A controversial new paper may shed light on Gulf War syndrome, a collection of symptoms seen in veterans of the 1991 conflict: Chemical weapons could be to blame. The researchers assert that when US troops bombed chemical weapons depots in Iraq, the neurotoxin sarin was sent into the atmosphere then carried by the wind all the way to American encampments 300 miles to the south. From there, weather conditions may have driven the toxin downward, potentially exposing troops to it for several days. Troops were told that chemical weapons alarms that blared at the time were false alarms, the New York Times reports.
The theory has been raised before; the new paper supports it using intelligence and weather reports. The researchers also noted a correlation between the number of times troops say they heard the alarm and the severity of their symptoms. Satellite images in the report show yellow gas over the US encampments, USA Today adds. Almost half of 700,000 Gulf War veterans have made claims for disability, with many citing symptoms whose cause remains mysterious. The Pentagon has maintained that the gas couldn't have traveled far enough to present a threat, and other experts have agreed.