Gulf War syndrome 'not caused by depleted uranium' Portsmouth scientists claim

GULF War syndrome, which has left a quarter of a million veterans suffering long-term illness, was not caused by debris from depleted uranium munitions, according to a ‘conclusive’ new scientific study by researchers in Portsmouth.

Thursday, 18th February 2021, 11:08 am

Instead, academics believe the symptoms suffered by service personnel since the conflict in 1991 might have been caused by exposure to sarin nerve agent released widely when troops destroyed caches of Iraqi chemical weapons.

The illness, which has been suffered by thousands of personnel from the armed forces of the UK, US and other allied nations, has caused a range of acute and chronic symptoms.

These include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders and memory problems, and scientists believe it appears rooted in neurological impairment.

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A member of "B" Company of the Royal Scots receiving an injection in Saudi Arabia against the effects of chemical attack. Photo: PA

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth tested sufferers to examine levels of residual depleted uranium in their bodies and they say their study ‘conclusively proves’ that none of them were exposed to any significant amounts of depleted uranium.

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The testing took into account the predicted decline in depleted uranium from normal metabolism over the time since potential exposure and testing, by using a highly sensitive method of testing in conjunction with metabolic modelling.

Professor Randall Parrish said: ‘For decades, medics and scientists have been looking for the elusive cause of Gulf War illness.

A destroyed Iraqi tank rests near a series of oil well fires during the Gulf War, March 9, 1991, in northern Kuwait. Photo: AP /David Longstreath

‘That depleted uranium is not and never was in the bodies of those who are ill at sufficient quantities to cause disease will surprise many, including sufferers who have, for 30 years, suspected depleted uranium may have contributed to their illness.’

Prof Parrish said the most likely remaining causes for the illness are low-level and widespread exposure to sarin nerve agent released widely from the destruction of Iraqi chemical weapons caches in January 1991, possibly compounded by the use of organophosphate anti-nerve agent medication and the liberal use of pesticides to prevent malaria exposure to allied forces.

The professor said the ‘plausibility of the link between depleted uranium’ and the syndrome had ‘bubbled along’ for almost 30 years and insisted it was ‘time to look elsewhere’.

Prof Parrish developed a method of detecting depleted uranium in urine from an exposure many years earlier and tested 154 well-monitored US Gulf War veterans who have the illness.

British soldiers pictured on operations in the Gulf

Not a single trace of depleted uranium was found in any of the samples following testing which is 10 times more sensitive than previous procedures.

‘Being able to debunk the alleged connection between this illness and this radioactive substance allows the medical community to focus more clearly on what the likely cause(s) actually are,’ Prof Parrish added.

‘Finding causes is a nebulous game when you have so many options to blame. The allies’ own activities destroying an Iraqi nerve agent cache or spraying pesticides liberally on troops could be seen in hindsight as an inadvertent “own goal” and one to be avoided in future conflicts.’

Allied soldiers with the spoils of victory - an abandoned Iraqi tank on a street corner in Kuwait City.

The Royal British Legion said up to 33,000 UK Gulf War veterans could be living with the syndrome, with 1,300 claiming a war pension for conditions connected to their service in the Gulf.

The Ministry of Defence said it was ‘indebted’ to all Gulf war veterans and said it would ‘continue to monitor any Gulf War research’.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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