Dept Defense: Chemical & Biological Agents

Gary Greenberg Gary.Greenberg at
Wed Dec 13 01:38:35 EST 2000

No. 720-00
December 5, 2000


No. 720-00 (703)695-0192(media) IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 5, 2000


The Department of Defense and RAND Corporation announced today the
release of RAND's literature review concerning chemical and biological
warfare agents. This scientific review, one of eight reports
commissioned by the special assistant to the deputy secretary of Defense
for Gulf War illnesses, is intended to provide information on the health
effects of chemical warfare agents and toxins, and to help determine on
clinical grounds if personnel were exposed to these agents during or
shortly after the Gulf War. 

The report, "Chemical and Biological Warfare Agents," summarizes the
existing unclassified scientific literature on the health effects of
selected chemical and biological warfare agents that may have affected
servicemembers who served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
The review complements work recently released by the Institute of

"This report is important because many veterans believe their illnesses
can be traced to exposure to chemical warfare agents in the Gulf,"
Bernard Rostker, the special assistant said. "This review is one step in
our ongoing search for answers as to why some of our veterans are sick." 

The report takes a detailed look at nerve agents, with a particular
focus on possible long-term consequences of exposure. Research examined
by RAND investigators indicates that even low level exposure that
results in minor symptoms can cause subtle neurological effects as much
as a year after the exposure. However, according to the report, the
review of the literature found no reference to the onset of symptoms
years after exposure to chemical warfare agents. About half of Gulf War
veterans reporting health problems did so a year or more after

The report also examines skin-damaging agents and toxins. As their name
suggests, skin-damaging agents can cause blistering of the skin, as well
as damage to the eyes and lungs. The biological toxins considered in the
report could all generate fatal illnesses that are virtually

Citing gaps in the literature, the report recommends additional
research, including a better understanding of the effects of mustard
agents on the central nervous system, long-term follow-up studies of the
Japanese exposed to sarin at low levels, and follow-up information from
survivors of a Malaysian aflotoxin poisoning event. 

RAND is a non-profit institution working to improve policy and
decision-making through research and analysis. Its 50 years of
experience and long history of working with the Department of Defense
make the organization very well qualified to carry out this type of

This RAND literature review is posted on the GulfLINK web site at , 

Other RAND literature reviews on pyridostigmine bromide, stress,
depleted uranium and oil well fires, plus a review of the military use
of drugs not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration for
chemical warfare and biological warfare agent defense are posted on the
GulfLINK web site 

Gary N. Greenberg, MD MPH    Sysop / Moderator Occ-Env-Med-L MailList
gary.greenberg at     Duke Occupat, Environ, Int & Fam Medicine
OEM-L Maillist Website:            


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