On September 18, 1995, a veteran submitted a small metal sample to the Presidential Advisory Committee for analysis and to determine if it was contaminated by chemical warfare agents. The veteran reported that the sample was given to him by another soldier who identified it as a piece of a Scud missile intercepted by a Patriot missile near King Fahd Military Airport on or about January 19, 1991. Analysis of the sample by the US Army Edgewood Research and Development Engineering Center revealed no evidence of chemical warfare agents. The assessment for this case is that chemical warfare agent presence is unlikely. Because we cannot attest to the chain of custody before the Presidential Advisory Committee received the sample nor can we confirm the reported symptoms due to exposure to the sample, the assessment is unlikely rather than definitely not.


On September 18, 1995, during a meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses received a small piece of metal.[2] The veteran who provided this sample reported that the soldier who found it told him that it was a piece from a Scud missile intercepted by a Patriot missile near King Fahd Military Airport on January 19, 1991. He further reported the following chain of custody: a soldier from King Fahd Military Airport picked up the metal piece as a souvenir; the soldier stored the fragment in a plastic bag, he forgot about it for more than three years; and subsequently, he rediscovered it in August 1994 in Charlotte, North Carolina. This soldier then gave the piece to the veteran who provided a portion of it to the PAC.

The veteran described the original piece of the Scud as being about six inches long, five inches wide, about 3/8 inches thick, and burned on both sides. The veteran who provided the sample told an investigator from the Army’s Foreign Materiel Program (Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence) that:

The unprotected sample, when examined in an enclosed room with no ventilation, will cause a person’s eyes to water after about 10 minutes and sometimes will cause a tingly sensation. Additionally, touching the sample will cause a burning sensation within about 10 minutes on the contacted skin. Within 20 minutes, the area is red; within 30 minutes there is a slight ring around the red part; within an hour, there is a watery blister; and within three to four hours, there is a large blister. The blister will rupture on its own in six to seven hours.[3]

The Persian Gulf Illnesses Investigation Team[4] (PGIIT) reviewed reports of Scud missile attacks near King Fahd Military Airport during the period of January 12-26, 1991. Veterans who called the Veterans Reporting Hotline have reported Scud alerts near King Fahd Military Airport during that general period.[5] The only Scud activity on January 19, 1991, (the date the soldier reported the Scud intercept) was four missiles fired from Iraq toward Tel Aviv, Israel.[6] However, available data suggests Iraq launched missiles toward Dhahran (located near King Fahd Military Airport) on January 20-21, 1991.[7] Patriot missiles intercepted these Scuds, so we assume that this sample came from the Scud attack on the evening of January 20 or early morning of January 21.

The PAC gave the sample to the Department of Defense Foreign Materiel Program, which in turn arranged for the US Army Edgewood Research and Development Engineering Center (ERDEC) to test for the presence of any known chemical warfare agents.[8] ERDEC did a thorough analysis of the metal piece using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance, high performance liquid chromatography/ion chromatography, and chemical ionization.[9] "They found no compounds in either of the leachates [material removed from a sample during chemical analysis] of the piece of metal submitted for analysis."[10] To further test its findings, ERDEC also analyzed the spectra taken from the fragment and spectra taken from a test sample spiked with mustard agent.[11] "All nuclear magnetic resonance and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry tests [were] negative."[12] The scientists who analyzed the sample wore protective gloves and worked in a ventilated laboratory. This is routine safety procedure for conducting these analyses. We did not attempt to duplicate the reported scenario that created the symptoms, and the scientists were not exposed to the unprotected sample and, therefore, were unable to verify the reported symptoms.

The PGIIT also arranged for the Missile and Space Intelligence Center to perform a metallurgical analysis of the sample to determine its source; the piece was found to be consistent with the metallurgical properties of Scud missiles.[13] The veteran who provided the sample to the PAC also reported that he independently submitted two other portions of the metal fragment to two commercial laboratories, but the laboratories refused to handle the material and returned them.[14] The veteran was informed of all test results.[15]

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