Many veterans of the Gulf War experienced fly problems and used fly baits. The active ingredient in one of the fly baits is an organophosphate. Organophosphates are active ingredients in a number of pesticides registered by the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States. Some chemical warfare agents also include organophosphates. The relatively widespread use of fly baits during the Gulf War, and the chemical similarity between nerve agents and the organophosphate in one of the fly baits, caused investigators to focus considerable attention on fly baits during the investigation of pesticide use in the Gulf.
Military personnel had to contend with a number of different species of flies, collectively referred to as filth flies, during the warmer months of deployment. A more serious problem in areas of high troop populations, filth flies thrived on the accumulation of various types of waste. Latrines, trash collection areas, and dining facilities attracted huge fly populations. Poor housekeeping practices in work and sleeping areas also promoted fly populations.
The military supply system carries fly bait to suppress flies under such conditions. Fly bait granules contain a sweet attractant. When flies eat the sweet-tasting granules, the active ingredient causes dysfunction in their nervous systems and quickly kills them.
The rapid deployment of troops to the Persian Gulf placed stress on the military supply distribution system. The first to deploy with fly baits would have been preventive medicine elements, but they were advance parties, not complete units. These advance parties deployed in August and September 1990 with the expectation that the rest of their units would soon follow and thus did not take pre-stocked pesticides with them. The bulk of the Army's preventive medicine unit with pest control capability (the 714th Medical Detachment) did not arrive in country until mid- to late-October 1990. The advanced parties therefore sought alternative solutions in the interim.II. HISTORY
During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, frequent unit movements and other factors made it difficult for supplies to be delivered to the units that ordered them. Delayed deliveries of ordered supplies created shortages, which in turn forced contracting officers and unit ordering officers to purchase pesticides on the local economy.
A Navy entomologist, serving with the 1st Force Service Support Group (FSSG) of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF), consulted with a Saudi Arabian petroleum company entomologist about the Marines filth fly problem. The petroleum company entomologist recommended a granular fly bait manufactured in Europe called SNIP�, which the Navy entomologist subsequently approved for purchase. The active ingredient in SNIP� is azamethiphos, an organophosphate. Although European regulatory agencies approved SNIP�, it was not registered by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
In the Army, a 24th Infantry Division information paper on controlling filth flies recommended purchasing fly bait. The paper contained verbatim information from the SNIP� precautionary statement and listed the SNIP� Fly Killer Pamphlet as a reference. In an evaluation on December 31, 1990, an Army preventive medicine unit recommended a medical logistics battalion use SNIP� for fly control. In the spring of 1991, an Army preventive medicine unit also included SNIP� on a list of substitute pesticides recommended for local purchase.
Stimukil� is a locally available fly bait containing the active ingredient methomyl, a carbamate. Figure 5 (Section A.4.B, General use Pesticides) shows SNIP� and Stimukil� containers. Figure 13 shows the label from a can of Stimukil�.
Figure 13. Stimukil fly bait label from the Gulf War
Based on interviews and other evidence, unit ordering officers purchased pesticides (primarily fly bait) locally. However, the transaction records have not been located and may no longer exist. In addition to unit ordering officers sanctioned purchases of local pesticides, veterans reports suggest individual soldiers purchased fly baits with personal funds. Locally purchased fly baits, including SNIP� and Alfacron� (an azamethiphos-based wettable powder), may have had both English and Arabic labels, but some were labeled in Arabic only.III. USE
The military supply system carries only EPA-registered pesticides. The active ingredients of the most prevalent fly baits used in the Gulf War were either methomyl (a carbamate), or azamethiphos (an organophosphate) both at a 1% concentration. The active ingredient in the fly baits the military supply system issued (brand names: Apache�, Flytek�, and Golden Malrin�) was methomyl. The two formulations and labeled uses are extremely similar. Table 126 compares the methomyl and azamethiphos fly baits.
Table 126. Comparison of local purchase and supply system fly baits
|Local Purchase: SNIP�
|Military Supply System: Apache�, Flytek�, Golden Malrin� Local purchase: Stimukil�*
* The military supply system chose Stimukil� for US procurement but ultimately did not purchase this product.
** Taken from label for Apache� Fly Bait.
Investigators re-interviewed US veterans who mentioned fly bait in their initial interviews. Investigators also gleaned additional information about fly baits from the interviews of preventive medicine personnel. The veteran interviews confirmed that American soldiers used fly baits to control filth flies. Figure 14 shows fly bait in a container on the ground during the Gulf War. Troops put the fly bait in areas where the fly populations were heaviest generally, where food was prepared, garbage was collected, and around the latrines. One soldier reported seeing fly baits put in pie tins or plates around the latrines and dining facilities. Another said fly bait was poured on the ground.
Figure 14. Fly bait
The military trained and authorized Army preventive medicine personnel to apply pesticides, including fly bait. Army Field Sanitation Teams also may have applied fly bait in and around latrines. Cooks may have placed fly baits in the dining facilities. The Navy and Marine Corps often used trained preventive medicine personnel to apply pesticides including fly baits. In the Air Force, civil engineering pest control personnel applied fly baits.V. BRITISH USE
The United Kingdoms military supply inventory carried no fly baits. British troops, needing a practical solution to control filth fly problems, made local pesticide purchases. On November 22, 1990, the 7th Brigade Field Hygiene Sections Environmental Health Officer wrote the [British] Defense Advisor at the Department of Entomology: "Have had no reply from you on my signal for insect bait so have instigated local purchase demands for SNIP� which is most effective in attracting and killing flies. I cannot tell you any more because the label is in Arabic." Shortly thereafter, the Medical Prevention Staff Officer 2 at the Headquarters Force Maintenance Area signed the appropriate request form to obtain the pesticide. Besides authorizing the purchase of SNIP� fly bait and Alfacron� 10 Wettable Powder pesticides, the approval listed a suppliers name, address, and telephone number in Dammam. A representative of the Saudi company named on the request form recalled supplying SNIP� and AZ� to "the Desert Rats," but could not specify how much the British purchased.VI. STUDIES OF SAMPLES
On a 1997 fact-finding trip to Saudi Arabia, Department of Defense investigators purchased one canister each of SNIP� and Stimukil� fly baits similar to those purchased on the local economy during the Gulf War. The label instructions were written in Arabic with product trade names in English. A copy of the SNIP� fly bait directions (in English) is provided in Figure 15.
Figure 15. SNIP� fly bait directions
The US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine (CHPPM) analyzed the two fly bait formulations to determine whether these pesticides contained the percentage of active ingredient stated on the labels. CHPPM found that both formulations did indeed contain one percent active ingredient as stated on the labels. Ciba-Geigy manufactured SNIP� during the war. It has never been registered in the United States. Methomyl-based fly baits are registered in the United States and are approved for issue through the military procurement system.VII. TRANSLATION OF LABELS
An informal, non-technical translation of the SNIP� fly bait label (Figure 5) found the directions similar to those on fly bait formulations registered, manufactured, and sold in the United States. The directions on the Stimukil� label were also similar.
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