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Gulf War and Health: Volume 1. Depleted Uranium, Sarin, Pyridostigmine Bromide, Vaccines
vented tent heaters, cooking stoves, and portable generators. Petroleum products, including diesel fuels, were used to suppress sand and dust. Additionally, petroleum fuels were used for burning waste and trash.
Pesticides, including dog flea collars, were widely used by troops in the Gulf to combat the region’s ubiquitous insect and rodent populations. Pesticides used included methyl carbamates, organophosphates, pyrethroids, and chlorinated hydrocarbons. Although guidelines for use were strict, there were many reports of misuse.
There were many possible exposures related to particular occupational activities in the Gulf War. The majority of occupational chemical exposures appear to have been related to repair and maintenance activities including battery repair (corrosive liquids), cleaning or degreasing (solvents, including chlorinated hydrocarbons), sandblasting (abrasive particulates), vehicle repair (asbestos, carbon monoxide, organic solvents), weapon repair (lead particulates), and welding or cutting (chromates, nitrogen dioxide, heated metal fumes). Additionally, troops painted vehicles and equipment used in the Gulf with chemical agent-resistant coating (CARC) either before being shipped to the Gulf or at ports in Saudi Arabia. Because working conditions in the field were not ideal, recommended occupational hygiene standards may not have been followed at all times.
Exposure of U.S. personnel to depleted uranium occurred as the result of friendly fire incidents, cleanup operations, and accidents (including fires). Others may have inhaled DU dust through contact with DU-contaminated tanks or munitions (see Chapter 4).
Threat of Chemical and Biological Warfare
When U.S. troops first arrived in the Gulf, they had no way of knowing if they would be exposed to biological and chemical weapons. Iraq had used such weapons in fighting Iran and in attacks on the Kurdish minority in Iraq. Military leaders feared that the use of such weapons in the Gulf could result in the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans. Therefore, in addition to the standard vaccinations given prior to military deployment, about 150,000 troops received anthrax vaccine and about 8,000 received botulinum toxoid vaccine (see Chapter 7). Additionally, troops were given blister packs of 21 tablets of pyridostigmine bromide to protect against possible chemical warfare. Troops were to take PB upon the orders of a commanding officer when chemical warfare attack was believed to be imminent (see Chapter 6).
Chemical sensors and alarms were distributed throughout the region to warn of such attacks. The alarms were extremely sensitive and could be triggered by many substances including some organic solvents, vehicle exhaust fumes, and insecticides. Although follow-up analysis by the Department of Defense (DoD) found no evidence of the use of chemical warfare agents, the alarms sounded frequently, and troops responded by donning the confining protective gear and ingesting PB as an antidote to the effects of nerve gas. In addition to the alarms, there were widespread reports of dead sheep, goats, and camels, which troops