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National Academies news: Gulf War and Health

WASHINGTON -- The available evidence is too sparse or of insufficient quality to determine whether the majority of health problems that may be experienced by Gulf War veterans could be associated with exposures to fuels for military vehicles, propellents in Scud missiles, or substances given off by combustion sources such as oil-well fires, exhausts, and tent heaters, according to the latest report on the Gulf War and health from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. However, data from studies of occupational and environmental exposures to air pollution, vehicle exhaust, and other combustion products led the committee that wrote the report to conclude that exposure to such substances is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer.

"Studies of people exposed to air pollution, vehicle exhaust, and burning of coal or other heating and cooking fuels consistently show that such exposures are linked to an increased risk for developing lung cancer," said committee chair Lynn Goldman, professor, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. "This provides sufficient evidence that exposure to combustion products during the Gulf War could be associated with lung cancer in some veterans." Military personnel may have encountered combustion products from diesel-fueled heaters in poorly ventilated tents, cooking stoves, vehicle exhaust systems, and oil-well fires. "It should be emphasized that smoking is the major culprit for lung cancer, accounting for 80 percent of all cases, according to the American Cancer Society," Goldman added.

The committee also found some evidence that exposure to combustion products is linked to asthma and cancers of the nose, mouth, throat, and bladder, as well as to low birth weight and premature births in women exposed while pregnant; the data were weaker in these cases, however. The data on whether the majority of cancers, neurological problems, and other health problems are asso
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Contact: Christine Stencel or Chris Dobbins
news@nas.edu
202-334-2138
The National Academies
20-Dec-2004


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