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Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 1996 Aug;24(1 Pt 2):S129-38.

Chemical sensitivities and the Gulf War: Department of Veterans Affairs Research Center in basic and clinical science studies of environmental hazards.

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  • 1UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences Institute, Piscataway 08855, USA.


The purpose of the New Jersey Center for Environmental Hazards Research is to define the illness referred to as Persian Gulf Syndrome (PGS). Our preliminary data indicated that more than half of the Persian Gulf Registry (PGR) veterans reported illness characterized by severe fatigue and symptoms consistent with chemical sensitivities. Therefore, our research approach focuses on investigations of veterans with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS). Project 1 is an epidemiological study of 2800 PGR veterans. Symptoms, indices of Chronic Fatigue (CF) and Chemical Sensitivity (CS), and risk factors will be surveyed with mailed questionnaires. Risk factors include demographics, past medical history, psychosocial variables, Gulf War experiences such as prophylactic medication use, occupational and environmental exposures, and pesticide exposures. Symptoms will be clustered to define Gulf War Syndromes. Significant associations between risk factors and these symptom clusters will also be investigated Subjects identified as CF, CS, or both will be recruited into Projects 2 and 3. In Project 2, healthy veterans will be compared to veterans with CF, CS, and CF concurrent with CS. Veterans will undergo four studies: (1) viral-immunological, (2) psychiatric, psychological, behavioral, and neuropsychological, (3) autonomic dysregulation, and (4) marker of P4501A2 induction resulting from exposure to combusting material. The purpose of Project 3 is to test the autonomic, immunologic, neuropsychologic, and psychologic responses of veterans with CS or CF to two stressors: controlled chemical exposure and exercise. CS subjects will undergo chemical exposures in our Controlled Environment Facility (CEF) to assess their biologic and psychologic response to low-level exposure. CF subjects will undergo a maximal treadmill exercise test. Circadian patterns of catecholamines and axillary temperature, viral burden, and cardiovascular and endocrine reactivity will be measured in response to this physical stressor. Project 4 is an animal study evaluating the interaction between stress and pathology/physiology when rats are predisposed to disease by exposure to Soman or to Dioxin. Two strains of rats that differ in stress reactivity will be used to determine the interaction of hereditary factors and chemical exposure.

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