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"Gulf War Vets' Children Studied"
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Gulf War Syndrome
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|·||Pyridostigmine Bromide - RAND study released by the Pentagon 10/19/99 which concludes that anti-nerve agents given to troops during the Gulf War cannot be ruled out as a possible cause for some of the illnesses veterans of the war have reported.|
|·||Health Impact of Chemical Exposures during the Gulf War - research planning conference sponsored by the CDC; Feb 28-Mar 2, 1999.|
|·||National Gulf War Resource Center - international coalition of advocates and organizations providing a resource for information, support, and referrals regarding the Persian Gulf War.|
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|·||Tony Flint of the Gulf War Veterans Association on the death rate study: It's "seriously flawed" - ITN (Jun 30, 2000)|
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Gulf War Vets' Children Studied
By SUZANNE GAMBOA, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - The children of Gulf War (news - web sites) veterans are two to
three times as likely as those of other vets to have birth defects,
according to a government study based on interviews with the
Gulf vets reported more miscarriages, too.
The research, published in this month's Annals of Epidemiology,
follows other studies that did not find evidence of greater risk of
The latest study, conducted by the Department of Veterans
Affairs (news - web sites) and Johns Hopkins University scientists, surveyed Gulf and
non-Gulf veterans from all four service branches. Just under 21,000
active and retired military, reserve and National Guard members
answered questionnaires about their health, reproductive outcomes,
exposure to risk factors and other issues.
About 70 percent of those who were sent questionnaires
"Veterans are very concerned that they have a higher risk of
bearing children with birth defects," said Dr. Han Kang, a
Veterans Affairs epidemiologist and the lead researcher.
"There are two or three studies that tried to address that
concern and did not find any evidence of that," Kang said, "and
now we are reporting at least a strong possibility of that
The Pentagon (news - web sites) says an estimated 90,000 troops who served in the
Gulf War complain of maladies including memory loss, anxiety,
fatigue, nausea, balance problems and chronic muscle and joint
pain. The ailments are known collectively as Gulf War Syndrome (news - web sites).
Some veterans also worry that their war exposure harmed their
reproductive health, making them more likely to have babies with
serious birth defects.
Millions of dollars have been spent on government studies on the
subject. A presidential panel in December concluded that none of
the research has validated any specific cause and that more study
The earlier studies that found no unusual risk of birth problems
among Gulf vets were based on reviews of hospital records. Critics
say a weakness of the latest study is that it used veterans'
opinions of their children's births rather than hospital data. Some
suggest, for instance, that Gulf veterans, aware of publicity about
Gulf War Syndrome, might be more likely to consider their children
as having birth defects.
Kang and his colleagues said they don't believe the results were
skewed this way, but are double-checking the veterans' reports
against hospital records.
The Pentagon has cited the previous studies in maintaining that
Gulf War service and birth defects are not linked. Kang's study is
worth further investigation, a Pentagon official said, but he
"If the risk of having a child with a birth defect was that
much increased simply by having served in the Gulf War, I find it
hard to believe that previous studies would have missed that,"
said Dr. Francis O'Donnell, an epidemiologist with the Pentagon's
Office of Gulf War Illness, Medical Readiness and Military
The study focused on first pregnancies that ended after June 30,
1991. The researchers analyzed information on miscarriages,
stillbirths, pre-term delivery, birth defects and infant mortality.
Male Gulf War veterans reported having infants with likely birth
defects at twice the rate of non-veterans. Female veterans were
almost three times more likely to report children with birth
defects than their non-Gulf counterparts.
Likely birth defects included webbed digits, heart murmurs,
chromosomal abnormalities and brain tumors, while excluding what
the researchers considered developmental disorders, perinatal
complications and pediatric illnesses.
Similar differences were found when researchers narrowed the
births to those that resulted in moderate to severe birth defects,
described as those requiring possible surgery or chronic medical
Both male and female veterans were more likely to report
miscarriages, but the increase was statistically significant only
for male Gulf War veterans - 1.62 times as many as non-Gulf War
The prevalence of stillbirth, pre-term delivery and infant
mortality did not differ significantly between the two groups.
Dr. Donald Mattison, March of Dimes medical director, said more
research should be done on environmental factors to try to
understand the origin of the birth defects. And, he said, doctors
should consider the potential link between Gulf War exposure and
birth defects when offering reproductive counseling.
On the Net:
Annals of Epidemiology:
Department of Veterans Affairs: http://www.va.gov/
Pentagon office on Gulf War Illness, Medical Readiness and
Military Deployments: http://deploymentlink.osd.mil/
March of Dimes: http://www.modimes.org/
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