- 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
- 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,"
- 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."