VA and research organizations continue to evaluate possible causes of Gulf War Veterans' chronic multisymptom illnesses, including exposure to oil well fires, smoke and petroleum.
VA presumes certain medically unexplained illnesses are related to Gulf War service without regard to cause.
Exposure during the Gulf War
- Between February to November 1991, Iraqi armed forces ignited oil well fires, producing dense clouds of soot, liquid, aerosols and gases.
- Plumes of billowing smoke remained low to the ground, in some areas enveloping U.S. military personnel.
- Exposures were highest during wintertime encampments in Saudi Arabia.
Gulf War Veterans may be eligible for a variety of VA benefits, including a Gulf War Registry health exam, health care, and disability compensation for diseases related to military service. Their dependents and survivors also may be eligible for benefits.
Learn more about benefits related to Gulf War service.
Research on oil well fires, smoke and petroleum exposure
VA continues to monitor Gulf War Veterans’ health issues and conduct research. Below are reports on past research on oil well fires, smoke and petroleum exposure and Gulf War Veterans.
- Institute of Medicine report on Gulf War and Health: Fuels, Combustion Products and Propellants (2005)
“Exposure to combustion products during the Gulf War could be associated with lung cancer in some veterans.” However, because scant information exists on actual exposure, the IOM committee could not draw specific conclusions about Gulf War Veterans’ risk of developing lung cancer or other health problems as a result of exposure.
- Final Report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illnesses (1999)
“Known immediate health effects from inhaling large amounts of smoke and particulates are primarily respiratory.”