Linked to Gulf War Syndrome
February 19, 2003 (ENS) - A comprehensive assessment of the available
scientific literature reaffirms findings of a link between Gulf War
Syndrome and exposures to a few specific insecticides or solvents.
A new report from the
Institute of Medicine at the National Academies of Sciences confirms what
is known already about specific human health effects associated with the
Persian Gulf War. There is some limited evidence to link certain long term
health problems with exposures to some specific chemicals, the report
However, for the majority of
solvents and insecticides that have been studied, there is not enough
epidemiologic evidence to determine whether associations exist between
diseases and exposures to these chemicals, the researchers conclude.
"Our exhaustive examination
of the literature produced no unexpected findings," said Jack Colwill,
emeritus professor of family and community medicine, University of
Missouri, Columbia, and chair of the committee that wrote the report.
"Our conclusions about
exposure to insecticides and solvents and long-term health problems
largely mirror those reached by many other scientific groups," Colwill
continued. "While we would like to have more definitive answers to
questions about the specific diseases that may be associated with these
chemicals, in most cases the evidence simply is not strong enough or does
The committee evaluated the
published, peer reviewed research on exposure to various insecticides and
solvents - such as cleaning agents - for any evidence of links to specific
cancers, neurological effects, or other health problems that occur or
persist after exposure. Of the 3,000 studies the committee reviewed, most
involved individuals who were exposed to these agents in occupational
settings such as agricultural and industrial sites.
Only a small number of
reports studied veterans who may have been exposed while serving in the
Persian Gulf. Toxicology studies conducted in animals also were reviewed,
but played only a supportive role in this assessment.
The insecticides and
solvents used during the Gulf War were agents that have also been used for
industrial and personal applications. Insecticides and repellents,
including DEET and permethrin, were applied by service members to control
insects that can carry infectious diseases endemic to the area, such as
malaria and leishmaniasis. Personnel came into contact with solvents
during activities such as equipment cleaning and vehicle maintenance and
However, little information
exists on the use of insecticides or solvents by individual service
members, and how that use may have differed from stateside use or
exposure. Because scant information exists on actual exposure levels - a
critical factor when assessing health effects - the committee emphasized
that it could not draw specific conclusions about the health problems of
Gulf War veterans.
Veterans who have
experienced chronic health problems following their service in the Persian
Gulf are asking whether exposure to various chemical or biological agents
might be responsible. Thousands of troops did come in contact with a
number of agents before, during, and after the war.
The U.S. Department of
Veterans Affairs requested an Institute of Medicine (IOM) study of
potentially harmful chemical, biological, or environmental agents to which
Gulf War veterans might have been exposed. Congress mandated a similar
study, listing several specific agents.
This report on insecticides
and solvents is the second in a series from the IOM that responds to these
requests. The first report focused on depleted uranium, pyridostigmine
bromide, sarin, and vaccines. The next report will examine the health
effects of exposure to selected environmental pollutants and particulates,
such as smoke from oil well fires, diesel heater fumes and jet fuels.
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Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2003. All Rights Reserved.