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Environmental Exposure Reports

Q. What is an environmental exposure report?

A. The Environmental and Occupational Exposures Division is looking at experiences in the 1990-1991 Gulf War from a more universal approach than previous investigations in general. An Environmental Exposures Report looks to describe any of a variety of exposure opportunities in the 1990-1991 Gulf War that would have occurred more universally, and that may have had an impact on the health of 1990-1991 Gulf War participants.

Q. How do they differ from the case narratives that have been published?

A. While previous case narratives mostly focused on discrete events or specifically identifiable occurrences, the Environmental Exposures Reports address events or exposures that had the potential to be experienced by anyone participating in the 1990-1991 Gulf War. The approach comes from a more universal perspective and includes personnel who share, or may share, common exposure potentials as relates to their environment.

Q. How do these exposure papers affect previously announced initiatives and actions?

A. The Environmental Exposures Reports will enhance the body of knowledge OSAGWI, DoD, and the veteran population will have at their disposal to better understand what occurred in the 1990-1991 Gulf War and how it may relate to illnesses 1990-1991 Gulf War veterans may be experiencing. Announced initiatives and actions will continue as appropriate. Additional initiatives or actions may come from the findings reported in these papers.

Q. What is the significance of these reports?

A. Consistent with one of the charters of OSAGWI to “leave no stone unturned,” Environmental Exposure Reports will further describe events experienced by personnel in the 1990-1991 Gulf War that may have had a long-term effect on their health. These reports will add to the completeness of the story and better enable veterans, politicians, medical personnel, media, and other interested parties to understand the significance of 1990-1991 Gulf War events as they relate to illnesses experienced by the veterans.

Q. What methodology do you use in developing the exposure reports?

A. We have adopted an assessment methodology patterned on that used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This process estimates the health risk from contaminant concentrations, site exposure, and contaminant toxicity characteristics. It consists of four steps: Hazard Identification, Toxicity Assessment, Dose Assessment, and Risk Characterization, defined below:

  • Hazard Identification - who was exposed, and how? Which incidents warrant a full investigation?
  • Toxicity Assessment - what are the known medical effects of human exposure? At what levels of exposure do these effects occur? How can the effects be mitigated?
  • Dose Assessment - how much of the contaminant were the troops exposed to? What chemical or radiological doses do these intakes represent?
  • Risk Characterization - using validated toxicity and dose information, what medical effects can be anticipated? How serious are those effects? How can the effects be communicated to those affected?

The former Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses (now Force Health Protection & Readiness Policy & Programs) has focused its investigation on determining what happened, what exposures may have occurred, and who may have been exposed. Exposures have been subdivided into levels and scenarios so they can be related to toxicity and dose information.

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