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Article Date01-09-2009
Record TYPENews
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Article TitleVet blasts study to debunk Gulf War Syndrome
Article ContentVet blasts study to debunk Gulf War Syndrome
Research similar to U.S. and British surveys
Mike Blanchfield, Ottawa Citizen; CanWest News Service
OTTAWA - A major study by Statistics Canada has concluded that veterans of the 1991 Gulf War are not contracting or dying from cancer at any higher rate than the general population.
But a former Canadian Gulf War veteran, who is leading the fight for recognition of ailing Canadian Forces members, dismissed the survey as a red herring that's too narrowly focused on cancer and death. Retired captain Sean Bruyea, a former military intelligence office, said the survey all but ignores the complicated range of Gulf War Syndrome veterans continue to live with today.
""Gulf War Syndrome isn't about the tragedies of cancer and mortality,"" Bruyea said in an interview. ""Why did they commission a study which has to do with people who are already dead or potentially in a terminal stage with cancer?""
The four-year study was designed to investigate claims by Gulf War veterans, who have complained of various symptoms since serving in the Persian Gulf after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the subsequent 1991 Gulf War.
Released Thursday, the Canadian study joined the growing international pool of medical research on this controversial topic, and produced similar findings to research in the United States and Britain on Gulf War Syndrome.
The study examined the medical records of all 5,117 military members deployed to the Gulf between Hussein's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the October 1991 withdrawal of forces. They were compared with 6,093 military personnel who were eligible to serve in the Gulf at that time, but were not deployed.
Their records were also cross-referenced with the death and cancer registries maintained by the provinces and territories and the national numbers maintained by Statistics Canada.
""These results are consistent with those of other larger studies on the health of Gulf War veterans of other countries. Canadian Gulf War veterans did report symptoms and common illnesses at significantly higher rates than other veterans of the same era,"" the study states.
""However, they did not appear to be at increased risk of dying or developing cancer.""
The Defence Department co-operated in the study to debunk claims by Gulf War veterans. If the government recognized the blanket of symptoms encompassed by Gulf War Syndrome, it could be liable for millions of dollars in disability benefits.
Thousands of troops from the U.S., Britain and Canada have raised questions about a host of undiagnosed illnesses and symptoms, such as diseases of the bones and joints, and the digestive and respiratory systems. Depression, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, dizziness, chronic fatigue and memory problems also have been cited.
Statistics Canada says the 5,100 Canadian veterans whose records were part of the study ""had a higher prevalence of self-reported illnesses,"" as well as high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder than the control groups.
The study also acknowledges that exposure to ""vaccines, medications, and chemical agents"" have been blamed for the symptoms. The cocktail of protective drugs given to soldiers, oil well fires, biological weapons, depleted uranium from bombs and other environmental hazards have also been blamed for the symptoms.
Unlike the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that Canada sat out, the forces made a significant contribution to the 1991 campaign to drive
Hussein out of Kuwait, as they contributed navy and air force task groups, a field hospital, two infantry companies and a security platoon.
About 2,200 of the 5,100 personnel were on the ground during the combat phase, in January and February 1991.
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