Editorials

The health consequences of the first Gulf war

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.327.7428.1357 (Published 11 December 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:1357
  1. Daniel Clauw, professor of rheumatology ([email protected])
  1. University of Michigan, PO Box 385, Ann Arbor, MI 48106, USA

    The lessons are general (and for many patients) rather than specific to that war

    Two papers in this issue of the BMJ describe the long term health of British veterans of the 1990-1 Gulf war. In the article by Hotopf et al the King's Gulf war illnesses research group present another excellent study, this one indicating that 11 years after the conflict the Gulf veterans continue to experience considerably poorer health than control groups (p 1370).1 The article by Macfarlane et al examines the rate of malignancy in Gulf war veterans and shows that their overall rate of cancer is almost identical to those not deployed, even among those reporting exposure to potentially carcinogenic factors such as depleted uranium or pesticides (p 1373).2 These results are congruent with other data collected in both UK and US Gulf war veterans. Twelve years after the war, and after roughly $300m (£174m;€250m) has been spent on research, what do we know about the health of Gulf war veterans, in relation to what has actually happened to them?

    Firstly, there is no evidence of excess malignancy, birth defects, or increased mortality associated with Gulf war deployment. However, and secondly, when those sent to the Gulf war are compared with military veterans of the same era who were not …

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