Pesticides and Gulf War Veterans
VA evaluated pesticide exposure as a possible cause of Gulf War Veterans' chronic multisymptom illnesses and concluded that research does not support an association currently. Read VA's rationale in the Federal Register notice.
VA continues to study the health of Gulf War Veterans.
If you are concerned about your exposure, talk to your health care provider or local VA Environmental Health Coordinator.
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)
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.
Visit the Deployment Health and Family Readiness Library to learn how DEET and permethrin-impregnated clothing are used during service.
Gulf War Veterans may be eligible for a variety of VA benefits, including:
- Gulf War Registry health exam, a free exam for possible long-term health problems associated with Gulf War service
- Disability compensation for diseases related to military service. VA presumes certain medically unexplained illnesses are related to Gulf War service without regard to cause.
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. Past research on pesticides and Gulf War Veterans includes:
- Institute of Medicine (IOM) Gulf War and Health report Health Effects of Serving in the Gulf War (2010)
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. 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.
- 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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