Veterans Affairs wants scientists to review nerve gas research
- Veterans Affairs wants scientists to reviewnerve gas research
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The head of the Veterans Affairs Departmentsaid he will ask researchers to investigate possible links between saringas and symptoms seen in Persian Gulf War veterans after a studyfound the nerve gas affected behavior and organ functions in laboratorymice.
VA Secretary Anthony Principi said he will ask the Institute ofMedicine to provide him with a report of whether findings in thestudy "hold true for humans in the Persian Gulf" who might havebeen exposed to sarin.
"I understand how it can be so frustrating for service members whofeel their service in the gulf might have caused their illnesses,"Principi said Thursday.
Veterans of the 1991 Gulf War have suffered from illnesses theybelieve linked to their service in Gulf. Among reported symptomsare chronic fatigue, diarrhea, migraines, dizziness, memory problems,loss of muscle control and loss of balance.
For years, many scientists have blamed stress. Veterans and someresearchers, however, attribute the health problems to toxicsubstances the veterans encountered in the Gulf, including sarin.Others suggest it may be a combination of factors.
The Institute of Medicine has been reviewing research of substancesconsidered possible culprits in illnesses suffered by Gulf Warveterans. Thus far it has reported that not enough scientificinformation exists to determine whether exposure to low levels ofsarin nerve gas had long-term health effects in people.
Sarin nerve gas is a deadly toxin that quickly kills its victims athigh levels, but little is known about its effects when people areexposed to nonlethal doses or doses that have no immediateeffects.
The Associated Press reported in December that an Army-sponsoredstudy done by Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in Albuquerque,N.M., suggested that low-level exposure has some effect over time inlab mice, including causing changes to structures of the brain criticalfor memory and cognition.
The Pentagon says about 130,000 Persian Gulf War veteranswere exposed to sarin nerve gas when U.S. troops destroyed anIraqi weapons depot in Khamisiyah in 1991. Some of the weaponscontained sarin gas, and some veterans believe other exposuresoccurred as well.
Dr. Robert Haley, an epidemiologist with the University of TexasSouthwestern Medical Center at Dallas, has published almost twodozen studies suggesting that some Gulf War veterans' illnessesare linked to brain damage resulting from exposure to toxins suchas sarin.
Haley said Principi's request for a review of the study is the rightmove. "He is doing everything he can to short-circuit the red tapeand bring relief to the many sick Gulf War veterans as quickly asthe science allows," Haley said.