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Veterans Affairs wants scientists to review nerve gas research

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  • DSBR
    Veterans Affairs wants scientists to review nerve gas research WASHINGTON (AP) _ The head of the Veterans Affairs Department said he will ask researchers to
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 24, 2003
      Veterans Affairs wants scientists to review
      nerve gas research

      WASHINGTON (AP) _ The head of the Veterans Affairs Department
      said he will ask researchers to investigate possible links between sarin
      gas and symptoms seen in Persian Gulf War veterans after a study
      found the nerve gas affected behavior and organ functions in laboratory
      mice.

      VA Secretary Anthony Principi said he will ask the Institute of
      Medicine to provide him with a report of whether findings in the
      study "hold true for humans in the Persian Gulf" who might have
      been exposed to sarin.

      "I understand how it can be so frustrating for service members who
      feel their service in the gulf might have caused their illnesses,"
      Principi said Thursday.

      Veterans of the 1991 Gulf War have suffered from illnesses they
      believe linked to their service in Gulf. Among reported symptoms
      are chronic fatigue, diarrhea, migraines, dizziness, memory problems,
      loss of muscle control and loss of balance.

      For years, many scientists have blamed stress. Veterans and some
      researchers, however, attribute the health problems to toxic
      substances 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 substances
      considered possible culprits in illnesses suffered by Gulf War
      veterans. Thus far it has reported that not enough scientific
      information exists to determine whether exposure to low levels of
      sarin nerve gas had long-term health effects in people.

      Sarin nerve gas is a deadly toxin that quickly kills its victims at
      high levels, but little is known about its effects when people are
      exposed to nonlethal doses or doses that have no immediate
      effects.

      The Associated Press reported in December that an Army-sponsored
      study done by Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in Albuquerque,
      N.M., suggested that low-level exposure has some effect over time in
      lab mice, including causing changes to structures of the brain critical
      for memory and cognition.

      The Pentagon says about 130,000 Persian Gulf War veterans
      were exposed to sarin nerve gas when U.S. troops destroyed an
      Iraqi weapons depot in Khamisiyah in 1991. Some of the weapons
      contained sarin gas, and some veterans believe other exposures
      occurred as well.

      Dr. Robert Haley, an epidemiologist with the University of Texas
      Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, has published almost two
      dozen studies suggesting that some Gulf War veterans' illnesses
      are linked to brain damage resulting from exposure to toxins such
      as sarin.

      Haley said Principi's request for a review of the study is the right
      move. "He is doing everything he can to short-circuit the red tape
      and bring relief to the many sick Gulf War veterans as quickly as
      the science allows," Haley said.
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