Letters: War veterans

UK needs research funding for Gulf War illnesses
Click to follow

Your report "Ministers' war of words over treatment of ex-servicemen" (13 April) raises deeper questions as to the Government's responsibilities to personnel after they have sustained injury as a consequence of firearms or chemicals during the performance of their duties.

During the 1990-1991 Gulf War organophosphates were employed as insecticides by allied troops who were additionally exposed to similar chemicals when containers of nerve gas (Sarin, Tabun, etc) were destroyed at Khamisiyeh. Of the military personnel deployed to the Persian Gulf, 11 per cent of about 53,000 British troops and 26 to 32 per cent of about 697,000 US veterans have developed a range of chronic incapacitating illnesses, predominantly central neurological, although other organ systems are becoming affected.

The Congressionally mandated report "Gulf War Illness and the Health of Gulf War Veterans" has incontrovertibly confirmed the majority of military personnel presenting unwell to be affected by a range of organic illnesses rather than psychological disorders and further identifies organophosphates to be a major cause of Gulf War illness.

The US has already committed $436m to the investigation of Gulf War illness and encouraged studies to be performed by members of the wider medical and scientific communities. A large number of research articles have been published that have significantly increased understanding of the modes of action and consequences of organophosphates in humans.

No equivalent funding has been available in the UK. Here, expenditure totals only £8.5m, with work being performed within the restricted environments of the Porton Down Research Establishment and the Institute of Psychiatry in London. Not only have affected UK military personnel not benefited from being investigated and managed by dedicated clinicians, but the medical and scientific communities here have been unable to contribute their expertise or to benefit from investigating the clinical, pathological or scientific basis of these complex illnesses occurring as a consequence of exposure to organic chemicals widely employed in military and civilian environments, particularly agricultural communities.

There is a demonstrable need for medical and scientific communities in the UK to receive dedicated funding to investigate the pathological basis of new iatrogenic diseases caused by chemicals, including therapeutic agents, recognised to modify the phenotype of human tissues.

Christopher S Foster MD PhD DSc FRCPath

Professor of Cellular and Molecular Pathology, University of Liverpool

Jack Melling PhD FRCPath

Senior Science Fellow, Center for Arms Control & Non-proliferation, Washington DC

Christine M Gosden BSc PhD FRCPath

Professor of Molecular Genetics,

University of Liverpool

Colonel Terrence English OBE FCIS

Former Director of Welfare of the Royal British Legion

Nothing patriotic about tax moaners

How lucky Britain is to have such selfless citizens as Michael Moszynski (letter, 24 April). So far none of the well-to-do who have complained about their higher taxes have done so for selfish reasons, but purely out of their patriotic duty to the country. Their concern is only for the damage these taxes will do to Britain, though the effect is rather spoiled by their threats to go abroad, suggesting that their patriotism can be transferred as easily as their businesses.

Mr Moszynski says his concern is not for the effect the higher taxes will have on him, but their effect on the lower-paid, yet when the lowest (10 per cent) tax band was abolished, none of the higher-paid even seemed to notice. Perhaps this is because the poor work just as well whether they have tax breaks or not. But if the well-off really want to leave, the best of luck to them. As Clemenceau so shrewdly observed, graveyards are full of indispensable men.

John Naylor

Haifa, Israel

In outlining the effect of budget changes for well-known people, you say Wayne Rooney "earns" £90,000 a week. I'd prefer the term "gets".

Richard Welch

Nantglyn, Denbighshire

I have studied carefully the middle pages of your Budget 2009 supplement headlined "Winner or loser?", which features 10 earnings categories and 16 income ranges each, but have spotted no "losers". Have I missed something, or did the Chancellor?

Dr Mark Vaughn

Blewbury, Oxfordshire

Lower speeds will mean fewer deaths

Speed limits are in force not only to prevent accidents but also to minimise collateral damage to our fellow human beings in the event of an accident, however caused. If a tired or careless driver (and we're all capable of being tired and careless at the wheel on occasions, not just young drivers) hits you, it may well be fatigue and poor driving that has caused the accident. However, it will be the impact speed that determines the severity of your injuries and whether you live or die.

Edmund King's comments on lowering speed limits are disingenuous and unworthy of the AA (The Big Question, 22 April). His is the kind of reaction I have come to expect of the petrolhead lobby groups. The causes of road traffic accidents are many and they must be tackled, but we must also aim at limiting the deaths and injuries that result from road accidents.

We cannot defeat the laws of momentum and kinetic energy: the greater the moving speed, the greater the thinking and stopping distance; the greater the impact speed, the greater the damage.

S McBride


It is quite extraordinary how available evidence is ignored in the debate on speed limits. I will give you two examples.

In the early 1970s (I cannot recall exactly which year), we had a universal 50mph limit for a period due to the oil crisis. The rate of road accidents dropped dramatically.

In France towards the end of his period as President, Jacques Chirac instructed the French police to strictly enforce the existing limits. In the immediate aftermath, deaths dropped by around 25 per cent.

The case for reductions is overwhelming: fewer deaths, fewer injuries, less misery, less cost to the NHS, less fuel used, less CO2 in the atmosphere, probably less congestion. The only people against are men who won't grow up and those who think that a few seconds of their valuable time are worth risking the lives of others.

Dudley Dean

Maresfield, East Sussex

Health and safety in energy sector

Perhaps Robert MacLachlan (letter, 23 April) could provide figures for those killed in uranium mining for comparison to those killed in coal mines, and figures for those killed in coal-fired power stations compared with those in nuclear plants.

It is only by comparing deaths at the same stage of energy production that a true comparison can be made.

Accurate figures for health and safety and mortality rates in the nuclear industry are difficult to quantify. Uranium is mined in many politically sensitive regions of the world, often using vulnerable migrant workers. Scant attention is given to their health and safety, and records of accidents and deaths are not kept.

The nuclear industry has always been cloaked in secrecy, as a result of its historic connection with the armaments trade. Many accidents go unreported and deaths resulting from radiation exposure may not be apparent for many years after an incident.

Sue Landon

BRAUGHING, Hertfordshire

More to life than wealth and fame

During the Easter weekend, I went to Blackpool fair for a day out. Kerry Katona (whom I have nothing against) happened to be there being filmed with her husband and children.

As we all queued up for about an hour for one of the rides, she was taken straight to the front and put on the ride immediately. Why does any celebrity earn the right to not have to queue like everybody else? This is just another example of celebrities being looked upon as more important and worthy than everybody else. This is prejudice. There would be outrage if somebody did not have to queue due to their race, gender, sexuality or age.

I believe this is a real issue of equality that nobody seems to be picking up on. What is worse, children are now brought up to want to be famous and rich for any reason, instead of aiming to be good human beings who help others. It is about time everybody realised that we are all equal and should all be held responsible for the way we live.

Ellen Day


Discrimination in Muslim states

In the light of President Ahmadinejad's speech, let me restate a few basic truths.

There is no equivalence between discrimination against Arabs in Israel and the racism to be found in the Arab and Muslim world. More than a million Jews have been "ethnically cleansed" from Arab and Muslim states over the last 60 years; only 4,000 are left. There are no Jews living in Jordan, Libya or Sudan. Jews are banned from Saudi Arabia. Iran has lost four-fifths of its Jewish population since 1979. Other minorities, such as the Baha'is, have also faced persecution.

Half the Jewish population of Israel consists of refugees from pre-Islamic communities in Arab or Muslim states or their descendants. Many arrived stateless and destitute but were absorbed and granted full rights.

L Julius

London SW5

Cultural barriers to Turkey joining EU

Tony Lodge's argument (letter, 21 April) about Turkey's accession to the EU concentrates only on the country's leverage as a pivotal state for European energy supplies. If accession were only about energy, we should surely be offering EU membership to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

In fact, Turkey is an Asian country with cultural and political values entirely alien to those of Europe. Politically, it is divided between a creeping Islamic fundamentalism and a skin-deep democratic secularism that continues only because of the support for the secular constitution by the country's disproportionately large military. This balance is fragile: only last week numerous academics and political activists, distressed at Turkey's gradual descent from democracy into Islamicism, were rounded up by the Islamic-leaning government in a dawn swoop that had little to do with human rights or democracy.

Women's rights in Turkey, while guaranteed by the Ataturk constitution, have not yet been accepted by the whole population. Last year there were more than 200 "honour" killings and suicides of young women for such crimes as objecting to arranged marriages or just talking to men to whom they are not related.

If the European Union is to mean anything as a political entity, it cannot continue to tolerate the military occupation of part of its territory in Cyprus, where a Turkish army of 40,000 defends a corrupt client state in which convicted criminals live free from arrest in an illegal enclave that is being quietly turned into a permanent Turkish colony.

Chris Payne

American University in Bulgaria,

Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria

Magna Carta Day

Arminel Fennelly's suggestion (letter, 25 April) that we should celebrate Magna Carta Day as a national holiday would be a non-starter under New Labour. They would find it too embarrassing.

Walter Shaw


Leave this singer alone

On the circus of publicity surrounding Britain's Got Talent's Susan Boyle, Howard Jacobson claims that "Bedlam is alive and well and we still go there to mock the afflicted" (Comment, 25 April). I wasn't aware that this woman, who has at least actually got some talent as a singer, was "afflicted" by anything – except perhaps the prejudices of supercilious columnists.

Sean Cordell


It's not Kafkaesque

Both Deborah Orr (Opinion, 22 April) and Tom Sutcliffe (TV review, 20 April) make inappropriate use of the term Kafkaesque in relation to convicted sex offenders. The central theme of The Trial is Joseph K's apparent innocence in the face of an authority that seems to punish him without accusing him of any specific crime. The difficulties that sex offenders experience in seeking release from prison clearly do not match this template.

George Hoskin


Salary vs expenses

Mark Redhead (letter, 23 April) from Oxford says that he is already paid an attendance allowance and it is called his salary. Presumably, then, if his boss asked him to work four days a week in Newcastle, he would not want any more money to cover his additional travel and accommodation expenses. If this is true, can he come and work for me?

Mark Rowlands


Freud's last laugh

The trimmed photograph of the order of funeral service (report, 25 April) deprived your readers of Sir Clement Freud's farewell joke:

Sir Clement Freud

Born 24.04.24

Best Before 15.04.09

Peter Forster

London N4