DoD News Briefing

Excerpt from DoD News Briefing

Thursday, April 3, 1997 - 2 p.m.

Briefer: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)

Q: On Gulf War Illness, USA Today reports today on a 1972 Army experiment in which sheep died after being exposed to low level chemical weapons, but it says the Pentagon has never revealed the study, even though it could suggest why hundreds of sheep, goats, and camels died during the war. Two questions here. One, is there any relevance to this '72 study to what happened in the Persian Gulf War? And is this in fact true, that hundreds of sheep, goats and camels died during the war? There are people laughing, but we've been told that one of the reasons that there hasn't been a lot of weight given in the past to chemical weapon exposure is that they didn't see widespread deaths of either animals or people. So I just was curious about that.

A: The Army study actually was part of an effort to learn what happened when some sheep near Dugway Proving Grounds died in 1968. That incident has been widely written about, widely publicized over the years. The Army did some research and I think they would call their study research notes rather than a formal study. I'm not aware that it concluded anything particularly unusual, that it gave them any new insights into what happened to the sheep that died in Utah in 1968. That's why, as I understand it, it was never published is because it wasn't particularly revealing. In terms of the Gulf War, it's been said by many people in the past that we do not have evidence of unusual animal deaths in the Desert Storm area of operations. As part of our continuing sifting through facts and history of the Gulf War, we're looking at this and everything else. I am not aware that we have significant new information of animal deaths during the Gulf War. But it is one of the things that Dr. Rostker and his group is continuing to study. That's all I can say about that. We do have a number of studies ongoing. We have one major study ongoing, looking at combinations of various substances to which soldiers might have been exposed during the Gulf War, sort of what's been called the cocktail effect of exposures to oil fires or pesticides or various medicines that they had. In a way, that was one of the goals of this research that went on in 1972, was to see if there was any combination of pesticides and low level chemical exposure. I think they were focusing in both cases on organophosphates to find out if there was any combination that might have explained what happened to the sheep. I think they came up with zeroes on that, as I understand it.

Q: After the Gulf War, was there any actual checking of any dead animals to try to determine if they had died from any sort of chemical exposure that you're aware of?

A: I know that there has been testimony in the past by Department of Defense officials that there were not unusual animal deaths that could be attributed to chemical exposure. That's all I have to go on right now. As I said, we're looking into this as well as every other fact about exposure to chemicals or other possible toxins during the Gulf War, and this remains under review.

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