Pentagon Looks At 'PB'
As Possible Cause
Of Gulf War Syndrome
OTTAWA - United States researchers may have found a possible cause for the mysterious illnesses afflicting some veterans of the Persian Gulf War. They suspect so called Gulf War Syndrome may be linked to an experimental drug that was to protect soldiers from nerve gas attacks.
The drug is pyriostigmine bromide, commonly called PB.
The study, financed by the United States Pentagon, goes against the findings of earlier reports. Those studies ruled out PB as the cause of the illness.
The new study's author, Dr. Beatrice Colomb, cautions that PB isn't necessarily the cause of the syndrome, only that "the possibility can't be dismissed." The head of the research team also says more study needs to be done on the drug's safety.
Tens of thousands of American veterans and a number of Canadian troops suffer from Gulf War Syndrome. It causes chronic pain, nausea, and memory loss.
About 2,700 Canadian soldiers were directed to take the drug during the conflict to counter the effects of a nerve agent the Pentagon believed was part of the Iraqi chemical weapon arsenal in 1991.
It's unclear how many of those soldiers suffer from the syndrome.
Canada's Defence Minister Art Eggleton notes that the Pentagon report was inconclusive and that PB was not judged a threat.
"Anything that our medical doctors and the Canadian Forces prescribe for our troops is one they certify as being safe," Eggleton said.
For years, the Pentagon has denied the claims of Gulf War veterans that they were exposed to dangerous health hazards in the war, even though more than a 100,000 U.S. vets reported suffering from an array of unexplained illnesses upon their return.
Paul Sullivan, director of a U.S. Gulf veterans group, says it's taken much too long for the Pentagon to admit it may be responsible for the health problems.
"It's too late. I have been to funerals, of friends and veterans who have had to bury their kids," Sullivan says. "We can be angry and very justifiably angry."