After the 1991 Gulf War, American troops destroyed a large munitions depot in southern Iraq at a place called Khamisiyah. After the war, we learned that some Iraqi rockets stored at the depot contained a mixture of the chemical nerve agents sarin and cyclosarin.
* Khamisiyah was attacked but sustained minimal damage during the Air War.
* 100 bunkers and warehouses were later demolished on March 4 and 10, 1991.
* The March 4th demolition:
* Included a bunker of 122mm rockets filled with nerve agents.
* Modeling by the CIA indicates that the chemical agent was most likely dispersed in a direction away from troop locations.
* The March 10th demolition:
* Included 122mm rockets crated and stacked in an open "pit."
* Unaware that these rockets contained nerve agents, soldiers attempted to destroy the rockets in the open air. This potentially exposed troops in the area.
Assessing the Exposure from the Demolition at the Pit
During the last year, Department of Defense and the CIA have worked to determine the nature of the chemical exposure and which troops may have been involved. Investigations during this period improved our knowledge in several important areas:
* The number of rockets present.
* The amount and purity of chemical agent in the rockets.
* How soldiers placed the demolition charges on the stacks of rockets.
* Where units were during and immediately after the demolition.
In-depth conferences with operations officers from Gulf War units improved our knowledge of unit locations. Recent rocket experiments at Dugway Proving Grounds greatly improved our understanding of the event. Using weather observations recorded at the time, data from the rocket tests, and our improved knowledge of military unit locations, we estimated:
* The number of rockets destroyed and damaged.
* The amount of chemical agent released into the air.
* Where the wind would likely have taken a cloud of chemical agent.
* The possible downwind exposure to nearby troops.
The year long effort has lead to a public announcement and this individual notification to veterans.
Q: What were the effects of nerve agents at the time of the demolitions at Khamisiyah?
There have been no reports of deaths or injuries which required medical treatment related to nerve agent exposure. Medical personnel who were near Khamisiyah in March 1991 have been interviewed. They have said there was no evidence of health problems related to nerve agent exposure at the time.
Q: What are the long-term effects of low level exposures to chemical nerve agents?
Although little is known about the long-term effects from a brief, low level exposure to nerve agents, the current medical evidence shows that long-term health problems are unlikely. This is especially true, if the exposure was too low to cause any symptoms at the time. The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs are funding several projects to better understand the potential long-term effects. For example, DOD is planning a study to compare the health of the engineers who performed the demolitions with the health of engineers who did not deploy to the Gulf War. In addition, several studies on the long-term effects of low level exposure have been funded at universities and medical schools.
Q: I am healthy now. What should I do?
If you are healthy, there is no need for you to seek medical attention at this time. If you have health questions, you should discuss them with your personal physician. There is no blood test or other medical test that can detect if a person was exposed to nerve agents some years previously at low levels.
Q: I have information about my experiences at Khamisiyah. What should I do?
If you have any information that would help us understand the events associated with Khamisiyah better, including any eyewitness experiences, please call the Persian Gulf Incident Reporting Line at 1-800-472-6719.
Q: How can I get more information about the events at Khamisiyah?
If you want more information about this investigation, a report will soon be available on our home page, GulfLINK (www.gulflink.health.mil). If you do not have access to a computer, you may request more information by writing to:
Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses
5113 Leesburg Pike, Suite 901
Falls Church, VA 22041
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