New Findings Into Gulf War Syndrome

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Gulf War
LLB (Hons) & LPC Stacy Pimlott
Legally reviewed by: LLB (Hons) & LPC Stacy Pimlott In: Industrial Disease

Many veterans are still suffering from ongoing health problems since the Gulf War, with a study finding that Gulf War Syndrome may in fact have been caused by exposure to sarin nerve agent – rather than debris from depleted uranium munitions.

What is Gulf War Syndrome?

Gulf War Syndrome, also sometimes known as Gulf War Illness, is a name for the higher-the-average symptoms and illnesses that veterans of the Gulf War appear to have developed. After the end of the Gulf War in 1990-91, there were initial reports from the US that soldiers returning home were suffering from unusual diseases, illnesses and symptoms. Some of these symptoms included:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Hypertension
  • Muscle Pain
  • Cognitive Problems
  • Reduced Coordination
  • Rashes
  • Diarrhoea
  • Skin Conditions
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Unfortunately, no exact cause can be placed on these symptoms, but it has been alleged that a range of different exposure to chemical, biological or radiological hazards and medical countermeasures that were intended to protect service personnel could be the cause of the symptoms. Because of the use of previous chemical weapons, troops deployed in 1991 were given medicines and substances with the intention of preventing against the dangers of these weapons.

It was previously suspected that the squalene that was included in the vaccines given to troops may have had an adverse effect and led to some factors of Gulf War Syndrome. However, new evidence has suggested that Gulf War Syndrome could in fact be attributed to exposure to sarin nerve agent.

What is Sarin?

Sarin in a human-made chemical warfare agent that is classified as a nerve agent. Nerve agents are the most toxic and rapidly acting of the known chemical warfare agents. It was originally developed in 1938 as a pesticide, and it is clear, colourless, and tasteless liquid that has no odour in its purest form. However, sarin can evaporate into a vapour (gas) and spread into the environment. As with all nerve agents, Sarin creates its toxic effect by preventing the proper operation of an enzyme that acts as the body’s ‘off switch’ for glands and muscles. Without an ‘off’ switch, the glands and muscles are constantly being stimulated. People who have been exposed may become tired and no longer be able to keep breathing. Mildly exposed people usually recover completely, but severely exposed people are less likely to survive. Recovery is possible, but generally the antidote must be used quickly.

This new research, conducted by scientists at the University of Portsmouth, has now led to the belief that the symptoms that many former troops are suffering from has been caused by this toxic gas. A highly sensitive method of testing in conjunction with metabolic modelling was used, which took into account the predicted decline in depleted uranium from normal metabolism over the time since any potential exposure.

Armed Forces Compensation

When you are serving in the armed forces, it may seem that it is just part of the job that you risk getting hurt. However, serving in the army is still defined as a job. In any job, your employer has a certain level of responsibility to keep those that work for them safe. Force injury claims should always be thoroughly investigated, and the right legal advice can support you in making a claim.

Read more on our military injury compensation claims page.

Read more on our Armed Forces Injury Claims page.

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