Scandal of Gulf pesticide blunders exposed

British soldiers sprayed pesticides throughout the Gulf War without being issued with proper protective clothing, documents in the hands of this newspaper reveal.

Senior officers were repeatedly warned about the danger to the soldiers' safety, but the clothing was never provided. And soldiers were forbidden to wear their special nuclear, biological and chemical warfare (NBC) protective suits instead in case the equipment was damaged.

The documents, some marked "restricted", reveal a catalogue of bad practice and neglect which will severely embarrass ministers, who last week admitted for the first time that pesticide poisoning may have caused Gulf War Syndrome. David Clark, the shadow defence secretary, is to send them to Michael Portillo, the Defence Secretary, and demand an explanation.

About 750 of the 50,000 British troops who served in the war have become ill, complaining of listlessness, depression, nausea, and pain - which some have blamed on organophosphate (OP) pesticides. But the Government has refused to recognise Gulf War Syndrome.

The Government also told the House of Commons Defence Committee that only one OP pesticide, malation, was used in the war - on Iraqi prisoners only. But on Friday Mr Soames admitted that three other OPs were used. The pesticides, often bought locally, were sprayed on tents, rubbish dumps and possibly clothing to kill insects.

The documents were written by Sgt Anthony Worthington, the Environmental Health Adviser to 4 Armoured Brigade. In one he writes: "Throughout the campaign all insecticidal applications for disinfestation either by wettable sprays or fog/mist were applied unprotected."

He adds: "This safety issue was raised on numerous occasions by myself" - at meetings attended by senior officers - "but this shortfall of equipment was not resolved". In another he says: "At no time was personal protective equipment issued to personnel applying insecticides. Furthermore the NBC cell ordered that on no account were NBC suits ... to be utilised for insecticidal spraying since this would undoubtedly lead to degradation of this equipment."

Sgt Worthington also describes OP insecticide containers leaking and soldiers complaining of "headache nausea, tightness of the chest walls, general fatigue". He developed similar symptoms after returning to Britain after the war.

Alerted to the documents yesterday, Labour's Dr Clark said: "I am appalled that the Government would put our fighting men in such danger. Mr Soames must have known that organophosphates were being used in this way, or if not, he should have known." The Defence Ministry declined to comment.

Then and Now, page 20

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent