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Thursday, 10 May 2007

Will there at last be some help for the Gulf War veterans who became ill or were injured?

Toxic legacy - Guardian


"Of the 53,500 UK troops deployed to the Gulf war in 1990-91, there are now close to 7,000 who have received a payment or are in receipt of an ongoing war pension for illness or injury relating either to their preparation to deploy or active service.

The Gulf war has been labelled the most toxic war in history. Troops were subjected to a multiple immunisation programme of up to 14 vaccinations prior to deployment, followed by exposures to organophosphates (and other pesticides), nerve agents to counteract the effects of chemical warfare, depleted uranium, environmental hazards, chemical weapons such as sarin and cyclosarin, and smoke from burning oil wells.

Completed research in the UK has now discounted most of these as the single cause of Gulf war illnesses. However, work is currently under way in the US and elsewhere investigating the possible "cocktail effect" of these multiple exposures.

Research has confirmed, however, that Gulf war veterans are more than twice as likely to report symptoms of ill health, and to be suffering more severely from them, than their military contemporaries of equivalent age, gender, rank and branch of service. Symptoms largely fall into four categories: musculoskeletal, neurological, respiratory and psychological.

Sadly, even though 16 years have passed, the veterans and the scientific community are still no clearer on the causes of their illnesses, some of which have proved terminal.

Epidemiological studies used to investigate causal links with illness have been hampered by the lack of accurate data, including service records and medical and/or vaccination records. Health surveillance was not carried out during deployment, or immediately post deployment. Additionally, this lack of clarity on exposures has resulted in lengthy delays for veterans seeking pensions and compensation for their conditions.

Still more controversy surrounds administrative problems with the programme of medical countermeasures in the lead-up to and during deployment of British troops to Kuwait and Iraq. In 2003, the government spokesperson for defence admitted in the House of Lords that these included breaches of the policy of voluntary informed consent on immunisations, the use of unlicensed and unproven vaccinations, and ignoring medical advice from the Department of Health on the potential adverse reactions of administering the vaccine cocktail."

I think these veterans suffering illnesses from the Gulf War have been treated very shabbily indeed and I hope they soon obtain some compensation.

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