Here is FRONTLINE's guide to the best of what is known about these risk
factors as well as valuable material to evaluate the continuing debate over the
two major theories: chemical agents and stress.
Panels of scientists were asked to review everything known about any
toxin vets might have been exposed to in the Gulf - from tropical infections to
chemical weapons. In all, four blue ribbon panels were set up including The
Defense Science Board, The Institute of Medicine and a special panel created
by the president, the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) which for two years
reviewed all the scientific reports and held hearings
These scientific panels determined that chemical weapons (along with biological
weapons, pesticides, vaccines, depleted uranium and oil fires, PB, and
infectious disease) are unlikely to be the cause of the veterans'
symptoms. Stress was the only commonly-cited risk factor noted by the
scientists which was likely to have contributed to veterans' illnesses
Here's the rundown:
(This theory has commanded the most support among
veterans, their advocates, the media, members of Congress)
The conclusions of the PAC on chemical exposures......
Read why the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) said chemical warfare agents
are an unlikely cause of the health effects reported by Gulf War veterans.
(PAC's report is quite readable.)
You might also want to read the overall Summary and Recommendations of the
The debate over exposure to chemical agents.......
Read FRONTLINE's interview with Dr. Robert Haley, an
epidemiologist who claims to have established an association between
various chemical exposures (as perceived by Gulf veterans) and certain symptom
clusters. (Note: The end of the Haley interview links to his published articles
and published responses from critics.)
Also, read this excerpt from FRONTLINE's interview with
Dr. Philip Landrigan
who disagrees with Haley's studies. Landrigan was a member of the
Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC).
For the 'ABCs of chemical warfare agents'
you might want to read the U.S. Army's Edgewood Research Development and Engineering Center's
research on chemical warfare
agents - how they affect the human body, how they should be handled and
what protections/special precautions are necessary.
(This is the most controversial theory. PAC concluded
that stress was the only commonly-cited risk factor likely to have
contributed to veterans' symptoms. )
Read the PAC's conclusions regarding stress as a risk
Read FRONTLINE's interview with Captain Kenneth C. Hyams. Hyams, an
infectious disease specialist and Desert Storm vet, wondered whether anything
like Gulf War syndrome had happened before. So he examined decades of military
and medical records and looked at symptoms that appeared in previous wars.
Read "War Syndromes and Their Evaluation: From the U.S. Civil War to the
Persian Gulf War." This is Capt. Hyams' article on previous wars and stress.
Read FRONTLINE's interview with Congressman Christopher Shays. He is
a strong proponent of the theory that chemical agents exposure - not stress -
is the cause of veterans' health problems.
Read FRONTLINE's interview with Congressman Bernard Sanders concerning
his criticism of scientists' determinations that stress is a likely factor.
Sanders recently wrote a letter signed by dozens of congressmen
urging the PAC to change their conclusion that stress was the likely cause of
Read the conclusions of the PAC on:
join the discussion .
analyzing the major theories .
five interviews .
the veterans .
a closer look .
examining the media's role .
a guide to the site .
comparing gulf veterans' health with other veterans .
tapes & transcripts .
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