WASHINGTON – A federal panel said Friday that exposure to toxic substances, not combat stress, most likely caused the mysterious medical problems suffered by many veterans of the 1991 Gulf War.
The report by the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses reverses years of government insistence that stress was the primary cause.
Instead, the report said, toxic substances such as pesticides and the nerve agent sarin most likely led to the health problems. It also said that the anti-nerve agents and insecticides given to the troops for protection may have contributed to their problems.
Anthony Principi, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, said at a press conference that the VA would no longer pay for research into stress as the factor behind Gulf War illnesses.
He said he had adopted one of the report’s key recommendations, for a $15 million research grant to try to nail down the real causes of Gulf War illnesses.