BBC News Online: Health
Wednesday, 3 October, 2001, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK
Gulf War children's 'defect risk'
The Gulf War took place between 1990 and 1991
The children of Gulf War veterans are almost twice as likely to be born with birth defects than those of other soldiers, research has found.
US researchers, sponsored by the Environmental Epidemiology Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs, surveyed 30,000 parents in the US Armed Forces.
Half had fought in the 1990 - 1991 Gulf War.
The researchers found children born to Gulf War veterans were more likely to have psychological and physical disabilities.
[This] seems to confirm what the Gulf veterans have always said and now it seems that their children are suffering in the same way
Professor Malcolm Hooper, chief medical adviser to the Gulf veterans
Female soldiers who had served in the conflict were almost three times more likely to have a child with a birth defect, compared to women who had not served in the Gulf.
Men who had served in the conflict were almost twice as likely to have a child with a defect.
Around 697,000 US servicemen and women travelled to the Gulf, compared to 53,000 personnel from the UK.
Gulf War veterans from the UK said there were many similar cases of children being born with deformations such as Down's Syndrome and other chromosome related disorders in this country.
Marie Rusling, of the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association told BBC News Online: " We've thought there was a pattern for a long time.
"The illnesses and the disabilities are out there in the general population, but its a higher percentage in the Gulf community."
She added that the US research supported the veterans' argument that the drugs soldiers were given to counteract the threat of biological warfare have led to long-term illnesses and death.
UK research is currently underway to examine the health of children born to Gulf War veterans.
Professor Malcolm Hooper, chief medical adviser to the Gulf veterans said there were some significant deformations in British children born to Gulf veterans.
He added: "Some of the most severe involve the shortening of limbs and malformations to the ears and parts of the face.
"It seems to confirm what the Gulf veterans have always said and now it seems that their children are suffering in the same way.
"I know there are people here that have children who are hurting and damaged."
Professor Hooper, who also lectures in medicinal chemistry at Sunderland University, said proving a link in British veterans would be more difficult as fewer servicemen and women went, compared to the US.
He added that previous studies carried out in America which found there was no increased chance of deformation were unreliable.
But a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence told BBC News Online this latest survey was of defects reported by the families themselves, rather than an actual clinical study.
She added: "We are aware of the report and are currently studying it.
"Previous reports from the US have indicated that there was no increase in deformations in children born to Gulf veterans."