VA and research organizations evaluated exposure to pesticides during Gulf War service as a possible cause of Gulf War Veterans' chronic multisymptom illnesses.
VA has concluded that the evidence does not support an association. Read the Federal Register notice for the rationale behind VA’s decision.
VA still, however, presumes certain medically unexplained illnesses are related to Gulf War service without regard to cause.
Pesticides used in the Gulf War
Pesticides used in the Gulf War fall into several major categories:
- Methyl carbamate organochlorine pesticides (lindane), used to treat uniforms
- DEET, used on the skin as an insect repellent
- Organophosphorus (OP) pesticides
- Pyrethroid pesticides (primarily permethrin)
The first two (lindane and DEET) were used as personal insect repellents, lindane to treat uniforms and DEET on the skin. All other pesticides shipped to the Gulf region were to be used only by specially trained individuals or for specific applications.
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 pesticides and Gulf War Veterans
VA continues to monitor Gulf War Veterans’ health issues and conduct research. Below are reports on past research on pesticides and Gulf War Veterans starting with the most recent report.
- Institute of Medicine (IOM) Gulf War and Health report Health Effects of Serving in the Gulf War (2010)
Disagreed with the Research Advisory Committee's conclusion in its 2008 report that chronic multisymptom illness is caused by exposure to pyridostigmine bromide (PB) and pesticides. Concluded that current available evidence is not sufficient to establish a causative relationship between chronic multisymptom illness and any specific drug, toxin, plume or other agent, either alone or in combination.
- Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses report Gulf War Illness and the Health of Gulf War Veterans (7.2 MB, PDF) (2008)
Found evidence of an association between exposure to PB and pesticides and multisymptom illness consistent with "Gulf War Illness."
- IOM report Health Consequences of Service During the Persian Gulf War: Recommendations for Research and Information Systems (1996)
“In general, it appears that the average personal usage of pesticides available in the PGW theater of operations was low and unlikely to be associated with the induction of chronic disease.”
- IOM report on Gulf War and Health: Insecticides and Solvents (2003)
- Senate Special Investigation Unit report Gulf War Illnesses (1998)
“Some troops reportedly developed rashes as a consequence of their use. However, no order acute health effects have been linked to the use of pesticides during the Gulf War.”
- Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) report Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (48 KB, PDF) (1996)
“It is unlikely that health effects and symptoms reported today by Gulf War veterans are the result of exposure to pesticides during the Gulf War.”
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