. "2 Understanding the Problem of Low-Level Exposure to Chemical Warfare Agents." Review of the Department of Defense Research Program on Low-Level Exposures to Chemical Warfare Agents. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2005.
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Review of the Department of Defense Research Program on Low-Level Exposures to Chemical Warfare Agents
chemical and biological weapons, depleted uranium, infectious diseases, pyridostigmine bromide and so forth. The PAC closely examined the question of adverse health effects after low-level exposure to nerve agents. Their conclusions related to low-level nerve agent exposure were as follows (Presidential Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses 1996):
Available scientific evidence does not indicate that long-term, subtle, neuropsychological and neurophysiological effects occur in humans after asymptomatic exposure to nerve agents.
There are minimal human and animal research data on low-level exposure to nerve agents.
DOD should support additional research on the long-term health effects of low-level exposure to nerve agents.
Another reason for DOD to pursue investigations of low-level CWA exposure is based on the military’s need to ensure that current doctrine, materiel, and training are adequate to protect soldiers from the effects of exposure to low levels of nerve agents (GAO 1998). While the Research Plan being considered by the committee also may provide some answers to the concerns of the PAC on Gulf War Veterans Health, the Research Plan, and thus the charge to the committee, is directly related to the issue of current military operational doctrine. The questions to be answered by the research accomplished under the Research Plan address operational and delayed adverse health effects concerns of the military and are not designed to develop occupational exposure criteria for the general population. The directed research in the Research Plan should address the development of best estimates of concentration and duration of nerve agents causing mild human incapacitation. One of the issues for the committee was framed by DOD at one of its presentations in terms of the question, When can warfighters safely remove their protective masks without suffering significant performance decrements (miosis) caused by low-level exposure to nerve agents in the environment? The committee assumes the same information would be useful in determining when it is appropriate to put protective masks on when nerve agents are detected. It was stressed to the committee that the focus of the research effort was operational effectiveness as opposed to force health protection. However, it also was stated in the Research Plan that the potential long-term health effects from acute exposure to low levels of nerve agents are to be a consideration for the committee; likewise, the effects of repeated exposures