Chemical & Biological Weapons during Gulf War
VA and research organizations continue to evaluate possible causes of Gulf War Veterans' chronic multisymptom illnesses, including chemical and biological weapons.
If you have health concerns, talk to your health care provider or contact your local VA Environmental Health Coordinator to help you get more information from a health care provider.
Khamisiyah, Iraq chemical storage demolition
Rockets filled with sarin and cyclosporine mixes were found at a munitions storage depot in Khamisiyah, Iraq that had been demolished by U.S. Servicemembers following the 1991 Gulf War cease-fire. An undetermined amount of these chemicals was released into the atmosphere.
The Department of Defense concluded about 100,000 Gulf War Veterans could have been exposed to low-levels of these nerve agents. Visit GulfLINK to learn more about U.S. demolition operations at Khamisiyah, Iraq.
Epidemiology studies on Khamisiyah and brain cancer
VA researchers studied the risk of brain cancer mortality in Veterans who served in Khamisiyah, Iraq, compared to other deployed Gulf War Veterans. They looked at rates over time since 1991, and updated their findings in 2005, 2009, and 2017. Below are published studies:
Barth SK, Dursa EK, Bossarte RM, Schneiderman AI. Trends in brain cancer mortality among U.S. Gulf War Veterans: 21 year follow-up. Cancer Epidemiol 2017; 50 (Pt A): 22-29.
Barth SK, Kang HK, Bullman TA, Wallin MT. Neurological mortality among U.S. Veterans of the Persian Gulf War: 13-year follow-up. Am J Ind Med 2009;52:663-670.
Bullman TA, Mahan CM, Kang HK, Page WF. Mortality in U.S. Army Gulf War Veterans exposed to 1991 Khamisiyah chemical munitions destruction. Am J Public Health 2005;95:1382-1388.
Below are additional studies on health effects from service at Khamisiyah, Iraq:
Mahan CM, Page WF, Bullman TA, Kang HK. Health effects in Army Gulf War Veterans possibly exposed to chemical munitions destruction at Khamisiyah, Iraq: Part I. Morbidity associated with potential exposure. Mil Med 2005;170:935-944.
Page WF, Mahan CM, Kang HK, Bullman TA. Health effects in Army Gulf War Veterans possibly exposed to chemical munitions destruction at Khamisiyah, Iraq: Part II. Morbidity associated with notification of potential exposure. Mil Med 2005;170:945-951.
Health effects of exposure
Health effects depend on a number of factors, including the amount of exposure to a nerve agent. Those with mild-to-moderate nerve agent exposure usually recover completely. Learn more about nerve agents and symptoms of exposure.
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 chemical and biological weapons
VA continues to monitor Gulf War Veterans' health issues and conduct research. Past research on chemical and biological weapons and Gulf War Veterans includes:
- Health and Medicine Division (HMD) (formally known as the Institute of Medicine) of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report, Updated Literature Review of Sarin (2004), which found that research doesn't show long-term neurological problems from exposure to low levels of sarin. A low level of sarin is an amount that doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms during the exposure.
- HMD report on Gulf War and Health: Depleted Uranium, Sarin, Pyridostigmine Bromide, and Vaccines (2000)
- Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) report Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses (48 KB, PDF) (1996)
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