Gulf troops hit by gas from bombed dump

Nearly 100,000 United States troops may have received small doses of Iraqi nerve gas after US forces blew up an ammunition dump just after the 1991 Gulf war.

The Pentagon said on Thursday night that long-term effects from brief exposure to the vapourised sarin nerve gas were unlikely, but the US Veterans' Administration (VA) believes it could be one factor in the mysterious Gulf war illness reported by many US and British veterans.

Few British troops are likely to have been affected by the nerve gas release, although it did pass over British troops, including 32 Field Hospital, in the Wadi al-Batin.

The Pentagon announced the results of a new CIA computer model of the way the sarin nerve gas spread after US troops blew up the Khamisiyah arms depot, 20 miles south-east of Nasiriyah, on the Euphrates, on 10 March 1991. It showed that in the prevailing weather conditions the plume of gas may have drifted nearly 300 miles south and then west before dispersing four days later. This would have taken it over US troops, but not over most of the British forces, who were in central Kuwait.

Immediately after the Gulf war, the US and British authorities denied there had been any release of the Iraqis' huge stocks of chemical weapons, including nerve gas. When the news that US troops had blown up the Khamisiyah dump was first released in June last year, the number of troops exposed was put at a few hundred.

Bernard Rostker, the Pentagon's special assistant for Gulf war illness, said 98,900 people might have been exposed to low level doses of sarin and that the Pentagon had begun notifying them yesterday,

"When rockets were destroyed in the pit area of Khamisiyah on March 10 1991, the nerve agents sarin and cyclosarin may have been released into the air," the letter read.

"If you were with your unit at this time, you may have been in an area where exposure to a very low level of nerve agents was possible".

The Pentagon released maps on the Internet showing the movement of the gas plume. On the first day, it headed due south, on the second south- west and on the third, north-west. On the fourth it contracted to the area around Khamisiyah.

Last year, the Pentagon said about 20,000 US troops had been within 30 miles of the ammunition dump, and might therefore have been exposed. No US troops experienced any noticeable health effects at the time. "Current medical evidence indicates that long-term health problems are not likely from brief low-level exposure to nerve agents", the Pentagon said.

Dr Susan Mather, a VA expert, said: "We know of no risks that this low- level exposure to nerve gas would incur. There was plenty of data on exposure to higher levels of nerve gas - a droplet of which, the size of a pinhead, can kill, but we don't have a lot of knowledge of human beings at that low level."

Many British Gulf veterans now believe the unexplained Gulf war illness, which has affected 1,880 of the 51,000 British troops who were in the Gulf, is caused by the precautions taken against chemical and biological attack, and not by exposure to nerve gas itself. British and US troops took tablets to strengthen their resistance to nerve gas and were inoculated against germ warfare including plague, anthrax and whooping cough.

Organophosphate pesticides, used in vast quantities to counter the flies, have also been blamed. The French, who were not given any of the jabs or tablets, have not suffered from "Gulf war illness". And the nerve gas cloud from Khamisiyah would have passed over French troops.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
fashion
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Chemistry Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

English Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

English Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: [ Megan Smith 22/09/2014 17:00:...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments