Over 100,000 victimsGulf War Syndrome characterizes a complex of physical and mental symptoms affecting150,000 Gulf War veterans.
The syndrome was largely dismissed by doctors but now it appears increasingly evident that it could have been provoked by low-level exposure to the poisonous gas sarin, famous due to its employment by the Aum Shinrykio member in the subway of Tokyo in 1995.
The government researchers discovered changes in the brain's white matter in soldiers exposed to sarin.
The size of brain damages (less white matter and slightly larger brain cavities) were linked to the level of exposure.
In March 1991, several days after the end of the Gulf Wwar, two large caches of ammunition and missiles were blasted by the American troops in Khamisiyah, Iraq. But some of the missiles contained sarin and cyclosarin, two nerve attacking gases. Experts from the Department of Defense have reached the conclusion that, based on the wind pattern and plume's size, over 100,000 American troops could have inhaled at least small amounts of the sarin.
From about 700,000 deployed troops, one in seven started presenting some strange symptoms, joined under the denomination of Gulf War Syndrome, like chronic fatigue, headaches, joint pain and nausea. The symptoms still persist today on over 150,000 of those troops, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Over five years after the Khamisiyah blasts, the Pentagon denied any exposure to sarin amongst American military personnel. But new proofs brought in 1996 and 1997 forced it to admit that up to 100,000 troops could have been exposed to slight doses of sarin that have no immediate effect.
A 2002 release of the Pentagon said that the exposures were too weak to have induced long-term harmful effect on the troops' health. The new research involves 26 veterans, but its findings are sustained by another one made on 140 troops who suffered various degrees of exposure to sarin and cyclosarin. Checking their fine motor coordination performances showed a link to the exposure level. The most exposed subjects to the sarin displayed a fine motor skills impairment that made them perform like being 20 years older.
The point is that the US government should offer the best possible medical care for these soldiers. However, the psychological problems of these soldiers are even more severe: they were regarded for years as conspiracy theorists and fringe groups.
Another side of the story is that nobody knows at least an approximate number of the exposed Iraquis.