CRAIG CALLS FOR ACTION REGARDING BRAIN CANCER DEATHS IN GULF WAR VETERANS
Washington, DC -Reacting to a newly conducted study of diseases in Gulf War veterans, U.S. Senator Larry Craig, Chairman of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said today that he will ask Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson to consider adding brain cancer to the VA’s list of presumptive diseases. That change will provide Gulf War veterans with brain cancer easier access to VA services and healthcare.
The Chairman’s action was prompted by a report published in the newest edition of the American Journal of Public Health which found a twofold increase in the number of brain cancer deaths among servicemen who were possibly exposed to nerve agents during the Gulf War. That twofold increase equals 12 to 13 additional deaths out of over 100,000 veterans who may have been exposed in 1991.
The study was commissioned by the U.S. military and conducted by the National Institute of Medicine. It examined 60 potential illnesses. Of those, only brain cancer rates were statistically significant.
It has always been clear that Saddam Hussein possessed chemical weapons in the early 1990s. It is now disheartening to learn some brain cancers in U.S. troops may be attributed to the exposure which may have occurred when those chemicals were released into the atmosphere, Craig said.
Under legislation passed in 1998, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs is charged to declare a presumptive connection to disease for Gulf War veterans when sound medical science and scientific evidence indicates a positive association between the exposure to biological, chemical, or other toxic agents. By regulation, VA has set December 31, 2006, as the deadline within which diseases or undiagnosed illnesses must be evident to qualify for a presumption of service connection. In light of this new evidence, we need to reevaluate whether that is still an appropriate deadline, Craig said.
The newly released study used a chemical disbursement model developed five years ago by the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency. That plume model tracked the demolition of nerve agents at Khamisiyah, Iraq, during March of 1991. The study ruled out smoke from oil well fires, which were prevalent during the Gulf War, as a cause for the increased cancers.
Researchers reviewed the health history of 351,121 U.S. Army personnel deployed in the Gulf from August 1990 to March 1991. Of those, 100,487 were considered to be potentially exposed to nerve gas and, of that number, 25 have developed brain cancer. Of the remaining 224,980 who were not considered to be exposed, 27 have developed brain cancer.
The authors of the report include a member of the National Institutes of Medicine and three members of the Veterans Health Administration.
Jeff Schrade, Communications Director
U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho), Chairman
412 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
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