OSU Researcher part of first-ever NAS Gulf War health effects study.
COLUMBUS, Ohio - An Ohio State University researcher who was part of a national study on the health effects on soldiers involved in the Gulf War said today that the review was a key step towards understanding the complicated dangers present on the modern battlefield.
Firdaus Dhabhar, an assistant professor of oral biology at Ohio State, was one 18 researchers selected by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine to look for links between exposures to four agents during the 1990 Persian Gulf War and subsequent symptoms and illnesses reported by members of the military since then. The findings from the report were released Thursday, (9/7) in Washington.
"Basically, we did not have sufficient evidence to conclude that exposure to any of these specific agents was the cause of the reported symptoms," Dhabhar said. "But we were able to propose a set of recommendations which may eventually lead to answering that question." The final IOM report does outline a number of possible research efforts that could offer clearer answers to the question.
The committee was charged with investigating possible links between exposure to depleted uranium, sarin nerve gas, pyridostigmine bromide (PB) and anthrax and botulinum vaccine and assessing whether any relationship existed between long-range health effects and these compounds.
IOM officials said that members of the committee were chosen because of "their expertise, their independence and open-mindedness about this issue." They spent nearly two years reviewing more than 10,000 peer-reviewed abstracts and papers, hearing witnesses, experts in the field, veterans and heads of veterans' groups.
"The overall tone of the study's findings is that we need more research before we can establish a clear link between any of these exposures and the specific symptoms or clusters that have been reported (by Gulf War troops)," Dhabhar said.
At the Washington briefing, committee members said their findings suggested that the likelihood that exposure to both depleted uranium and PB during the Gulf War will lead to long-range health effects among the troops was greatly reduced. As far as the other two agents - sarin and vaccines - were concerned, the likelihood of long-range health effects hasn't been changed by the results of the study.
The complete IOM report is available at the National Academies of Science website (http://books.nap.edu/catalog/9953.html) and an NAS news release on the study can be found at the site as well.
Ernest L. Mazzaferri, emeritus professor and chair of internal medicine at Ohio State, also served on the IOM study.