The authors of this paper looked at epidemiological studies assessing the link between these chemicals and symptoms observed in Gulf War vets.
Many of the studies reported a link between exposure to AChEI and chronic symptoms.
An estimated 250,000 personnel received the carbamate pyridostigmine bromide (PB) as a pretreatment for potential exposure to nerve agents. Those who took more pills had a higher incidence of symptoms.
Also, an estimated 41,000 service members may have been overexposed to pesticides, which were used to control vector-borne disease, and 100,000 personnel may have been exposed to low levels of sarin nerve agent after the demolition of the Khamisiyah munitions depot in Iraq.
The symptoms are akin to those suffered by agricultural workers exposed to AChEIs, said the study authors, as well as symptoms suffered by victims of the sarin terrorist attacks in Japan.
Exposure to AChEIs could also be linked to the higher rate of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease, in Gulf War veterans. Sporadic ALS has been associated with exposure to agricultural chemicals.
And men and women with the Gulf War symptoms were more likely to have lower concentrations and activity levels of enzymes which work to clear AChEIs from the system. Genetics may impact the way the body processes these chemicals, specifically the actions of these related enzymes.
"They're giving certain people so many of these nerve agent pills or pesticides, and [the authors] say that some people metabolize them and some not," Miller said. "Are we really giving a toxic dose apart from the genetics? What are they giving and have they really tested the amounts that they're giving? Are we overdosing?"
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