Pesticides cause illness in war veterans

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London, Mar 11 (UNI) Exposure to pesticides and nerve agents is the reason behind higher rate of illnesses-- from pain to memory problems-- experienced by up to one-third of Gulf War veterans.

A study at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine showed high rates of illness in veterans from the 1990-91 conflict with symptoms including fatigue, muscle or joint pain, memory problems, trouble sleeping, rash and breathing problems.

Chemicals known as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AChEIs) are responsible for it, a group of chemicals that occur naturally as venoms and poisons are used as nerve agent weapons.

The carbamate pyridostigmine bromide (PB) pills given to service members to protect against potential nerve agent exposure; and organophosphates (OP), which includes nerve toxins and pesticides used to control sand flies and other insects.

Some military personnel were exposed to nerve gas (sarin) while demolishing Iraqi munitions, Daily Telegraph reported.

''Evidence suggests that exposure to certain class of chemical may elevate the risk of health problems and the effect can be seen in American, British and Australian veterans,'' said Dr Beatrice Golomb, whose study was in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In genetically susceptible servicemen, ''PB does look important as so many were exposed though PB, pesticides and nerve agent exposure all should be considered important,'' she said.

''These findings carry important implications for current members of the armed forces as well as the general public, suggesting that exposure to these pesticides in any setting may increase the risk for impaired neuropsychological function and poor health'' said Dr Golomb.

Support groups claimed that of about 53,000 British troops served in the Gulf at least 6,000 have reported health problems.

''We have long accepted that the ill health of some veterans of the 1990-1991 Gulf conflict is related to their service,'' spokesman for the UK Ministry of Defence stated.


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