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Chemical Warfare Agents in Operation Iraqi Freedom

Soldier with munitions laid out to be destroyed

U.S. Department of Defense

Servicemembers who demolished or handled explosive ordinance may have been exposed to warfare agents such as mustard agents or sarin.

These exposures may cause health effects.

The Department of Defense (DoD) is contacting Servicemembers and Veterans who may have been exposed. If you were exposed and have not been contacted, call their hotline: 1-800-497-6261.

Veterans may participate in registries 

If you were exposed, you can get a free VA Gulf War Registry exam and participate in the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry (AHOBPR). Contact your local Environmental Health Coordinator to make an appointment for the Gulf War Registry exam. You can complete the AHOBPR online and then schedule a follow-up exam with your Environmental Health Coordinator.

VA encourages you to participate whether you have symptoms or not, or participated in the Gulf War Registry or AHOBPR.

Health effects of exposures

Immediate symptoms and potential long-term health effects depend on the type of agent and the level of exposure.

  • Blister agents: Long-term health effects are not expected after low level exposures that did not cause immediate symptoms or require medical attention, such as a small blister on the skin from a mustard agent. Higher level exposures such as to the whole body or airways and lungs may result in cancers or other health problems.
  • Nerve agents: Long-term health effects are not expected after low level exposures with no or minimal symptoms. Learn more about nerve agents, such as sarin.

There is no test currently available to confirm exposure after a few months have passed.

More research is needed

The research on long-term health effects of chemical warfare agent exposure is limited. Studies of individuals with higher exposures in the 1995 Tokyo subway attack have demonstrated some long-term effects on the nervous system.

VA and DoD are collaborating to understand potential health effects.

Health concerns?

Talk to your health care provider or local VA Environmental Health Coordinator if you have health concerns.

Not enrolled in the VA health care system? Find out if you qualify.

Compensation for health problems

Veterans may file a claim for disability compensation for health problems they believe are related to exposure to chemical warfare agents. VA decides these claims on a case-by-case basis. VA presumes certain diseases are related to mustard gas after full-body exposure. File a claim online.

Learn more about VA benefits.

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