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The Defense Department may have been taking a big chance with PB. In earlier, small-scale safety trials, Air Force pilots had reported serious side effects, including impaired breathing, vision, stamina and short-term memory. (Many soldiers would experience such symptoms during the Gulf War.) Even more alarming, PB was known to worsen the effects of some kinds of nerve gas. Nonetheless, as war threatened, the Pentagon persuaded the Food and Drug Administration to waive its prohibition on testing a drug for new purposes without the subjects' "informed consent." FDA deputy commissioner Mary Pendergast defends that ruling: "You can't have your troops being the ones to decide whether they'll take some step to keep themselves healthy."
"Adults are worse than children as far as staring," says mom Shana. Kennedi's dad, Darrell, tested positive for radiation exposure, but unless his testes are dissected no link to her condition can be proved.

If PB did cause lasting problems, the reason could be the way it interacts with bug spray. In 1993, James Moss, a scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, found that when cockroaches are exposed to PB along with the common insect repellent DEET--used in the Gulf--the toxicity of both chemicals is multiplied. Moss says he pursued his experiments in spite of orders to stop. His contract wasn't renewed when it expired last year, and the researcher claims he was blackballed. (USDA Secretary Dan Glickman says Moss's "temporary appointment" was up and Moss knew it.) Since Moss's study, two others--one by the Pentagon itself, the second by Duke University--have found neural damage in rats and chickens exposed to another chemical cocktail, this one a mixture of PB, DEET and permethrin, an insecticide. Permethrin, however, was probably used by no more than 5 percent of U.S. soldiers in the Gulf."
"When people see her they say 'What happened to your baby?'" -SHANA CLARK
Pentagon officials deny that any PB-DEET mixture could have caused birth defects in male Gulf vets' children. "I'm not aware that a male can be exposed to a chemical agent, and then two years later his sperm creates a defect," says Dr. Stephen Joseph, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. But some chemicals, such as mustard gas, have been shown to affect sperm production for even longer periods. Clearly, further research is needed to determine whether a PB-and-bug-spray combo can behave the same way.
Born with organs out of place, he suffered further damage in surgery, says his father, Brad. Now Casey's chest has stopped growing, leading to fears that he may need an operation at some point to preserve function in his lungs.

Army Sgt. Brad Minns is pretty sure he didn't take PB, but he did take a vaccine meant to save his life if Iraq resorted to germ warfare. He fears that this medication caused his chronic fatigue--and that his Gulf War service ultimately blighted his baby's life at the root.

In their bungalow at Fort Meade, Md., Brad and his wife, Marilyn, list their son's tribulations. Casey was born with Goldenhar's syndrome, characterized by a lopsided head and spine. His left ear was missing, his digestive tract disconnected. Trying to repair his scrambled innards, surgeons at Walter Reed Army Medical Center damaged his vocal cords and colon, say Brad and Marilyn. (Ben Smith, a spokesman for Walter Reed, says, "A claim has been filed by the family, and until it's resolved [the case] is in the hands of the lawyers.") Now 26 months old, Casey speaks in sign language. His parents feed him and remove his wastes through holes in his belly. Otherwise, he's a regular kid, tearing about the sparsely decorated room, shoving pens, books, scraps of paper into his mouth. Marilyn follows, tugging them out again.)

"He's a little terror," says Brad, with the weariest of smiles.

A military policeman posted mainly at an airfield in Saudi Arabia, Brad, along with 150,000 other American soldiers, took a vaccine--on his commander's orders--against weapon-borne anthrax. A second vaccine, against botulism, was administered to 8,000 soldiers. A staff report issued last December by the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs concluded that "Persian Gulf veterans were . . . ordered under threat of Article 15 or court-martial, to discuss their vaccinations with no one, not even with medical professionals needing the information to treat adverse reactions from the vaccine." The Senate report noted that the particular botulinum toxoid issued "was not approved by FDA." Other details from the survey: Of responding veterans who had taken the anthrax vaccine, 85 percent were told they could not refuse it, and 43 percent experienced immediate side effects. Only one fourth of the women to whom it was administered were warned of any risks to pregnancy. Of all responding personnel who had taken the antibotulism medicine, 88 percent were told not to turn it down and 35 percent suffered side effects. None of the women given botulinum toxoid were told of pregnancy risks. "Anthrax vaccine should continue to be considered as a potential cause for undiagnosed illnesses in Persian Gulf military personnel," said the report in one of its summations. And in another: "[The botulism vaccine's] safety remains unknown.") (more)
.....Poison in the Desert: Did Exposure to Depleted Uranium Cause Illness?

Allied tanks and warplanes fired a new kind of ammunition in the Gulf War: shells packed with depleted uranium, a waste product from nuclear reactors [and nuclear bombs]. When such a shell hits an enemy tank, it heats up, incinerating the vechicle's crew.

In a 1993 report, the General Accouting Office concluded that while troops using such ordinance were unlikely to receive a radiation dose exceeding Nuclear Regulatory Commiission limits, "the Army has not effectively educated its personnel in the hazards of dU contamination and in proper safety measures appropriate to the degree of hazard." And the safety of even low-level radiation exposure remains a subject of scientific debate.

For troops salvaging shrapnel-pocked equipment, or working in areas filled with the dust and debris of tank battles, the risk may have been especially high. Nearly a million dU-tipped
* shells were fired during the war. Says Paul Sullivan, president of the Gulf War Veterans of Georgia: "We're talking about tons and tons of radioactive wastes floating around."

* The munition is neither "tipped" nor coated with dU. A 30mm shell contains a solid, one-half pound depleted uranium "penatrator". A 120mm shell contains almost 11 pounds of dU. Up to 70% of the penatrator is aerosolized upon impact with a target. –ed.

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