Gulf Illness Blamed on Chemicals

Pesticides and nerve agents cause syndrome, says researcher
By Peter Fearon,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2008 9:05 AM CDT
General Norman Schwarzkopf brief reporters during the 1991 Gulf War. A new study says thousands of veterans suffering from Gulf War Syndrome were made sick by chemicals and pesticides used during the...   (AP File)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – Exposure to chemicals and pesticides during the first Gulf War is the likely cause of widespread illnesses suffered by its veterans, a new study concludes. Some 250,000 veterans of the conflict—a third of the troops who served— suffer fatigue, muscle and joint pain, memory lapses, intestinal problems, and sleep disturbances, the San Diego Tribune reports. The umbrella of ailments is widely known as Gulf War syndrome, though federal authorities resist that label.

“Enough studies have been conducted to be able to say with considerable confidence that there is a link," said the lead researcher. The study blames exposure to pesticides used to kill sand flies, anti-nerve-gas pills, and chemicals released when an Iraqi munitions bunker was destroyed. The key culprit is believed to be a class of chemicals still used for pest control in homes, offices, and farms in the US. (Read more Gulf War Syndrome stories.)