Panel: no link between Gulf illnesses and nerve gas

Advisory group that faults, yet supports,
Pentagon will stay on the job

January 7, 1997

In this story:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After receiving a report partially critical of the military's investigation into Gulf War ailments, President Clinton on Tuesday announced that a civilian advisory panel would remain in place for nine more months to oversee the Pentagon's ongoing efforts to find the cause.

The Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses was set to expire after issuing its report, which was formally delivered to Clinton at a White House ceremony Tuesday.

While faulting the Pentagon for a slow pace and lack of thoroughness in its investigation, the panel's chairwoman said she saw "no evidence" of a cover-up. The committee also supported the military's controversial finding that there is no evidence to date linking the illnesses to nerve gas.

Instead, the report cites battlefield stress as an important factor that needs to be further explored.

Pentagon criticized

The panel's leader, Dr. Joyce Lashof, praised the Clinton administration for a "comprehensive series of measures to resolve questions about Gulf War veterans' illnesses."

"Unfortunately," she added, "the positive nature of these efforts has been diminished by how the Department of Defense approached the possibility that U.S. troops had been exposed to chemical weapons."

"The committee is pained by the atmosphere of government mistrust which now surrounds every aspect of Gulf War veterans illnesses," Lashof said.

However, the report commends the Pentagon for taking steps to restore public confidence by expanding its investigation into low-level chemical agent exposure.

Stress needs more study

Referring to a variety of ailments reported by thousands of veterans and commonly known as Gulf War Syndrome, Lashof urged more long-term studies.

"Based on existing scientific data, none of the individual environmental Gulf War risk factors commonly suspected appears to be the cause. While the committee finds that stress is likely to be an important contributing factor ... the story is by no means complete."

The commission recommended new research into:

Clinton ordered three cabinet members -- from Defense, Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services -- to report to him in 60 days on steps they are taking to implement the panel's recommendations.

He also called for a global treaty to ban chemical weapons, which many veterans cite as a cause for their illnesses.

"I pledge to our veterans and every American -- we will not stop until we have done all we can to care for our Gulf War veterans to find out why they are sick and to make them healthy again," Clinton said after accepting the commission's report.

Findings of another study focus on Iowa veterans

Results of another federal study were released Tuesday showing that more Gulf War veterans report chronic fatigue and other ills than veterans who were not in the Gulf.

The project compared the health of about 2,000 Iowa Gulf War veterans to that of about 2,000 Iowa military personnel who served outside the gulf region. It was conducted by the University of Iowa and Iowa State University in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

Among the findings were that Gulf War veterans were three times more likely to report chronic fatigue, 122 percent more likely to report memory problems and 81 percent more likely to report muscle aches.

However, researchers cautioned that the findings were not conclusive.

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