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Family Suspects Illnesses Linked To Chemical Exposure

August 08, 1994By THOMAS D. Col. Central Command, said lindane powder, a form of benzene hexachloride used as insecticide, was dusted” and blown” onto the prisoners to delouse them.

Lindane, available only by prescription, is fatal if swallowed and should not be used on sores or wounds.

Chemicals like benzene also can create a higher risk of pancreatic cancer, whose exact cause remains unclear, according to some medical journals. Studies of industrial workers have shown increased cancer risks, especially in the chemical and petroleum industries, according to The British Journal of Industrial Medicine.

No one can say how much chemical exposure it would take to create a higher risk of pancreatic cancer or how many doses of benzene or other chemicals would speed up the normally 10 to 20 years’ exposure time it takes to get cancer.

A shorter period is possible but would be less common, said Dr. Andrew L. Salner, director of the cancer programs at Hartford Hospital and the University of Connecticut Medical Center.

Heavy cigarette smoking is said to create a higher risk of pancreatic cancer among men between the ages of 20 and 40, but Diane said her husband is not a smoker. Usually, pancreatic cancer strikes people between the ages of 65 and 79. Risk increases after age 30.

Joe had a 90 year old maternal grandmother with pancreatic cancer, Polio said, but that is not necessarily a determining factor for his tumor.

The only thing that stands out for him in terms of exposure is the gulf war. If you start to see pancreatic cancer in other veterans, then it would be a more significant exposure,
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and it would certainly merit looking into,” he said. Polio said the VA told him there were no gulf war veterans with pancreatic cancer.

Terry Jemison, a VA spokesman in Washington, said 51 gulf veterans of 17,000 studied are listed as having cancer but none of those are suffering from pancreatic cancer. But a VA document obtained independently shows that as of September 1993, at least six gulf war veterans have pancreatic cancer and at least 295 have cancers.

Jemison said his lower figures come from the 17,000 veterans on the gulf war registry and do not include 127,000 veterans seen for health problems but not admitted to VA hospitals. He said the VA has not yet compiled the total number of gulf war veterans suffering from cancer. troops in the gulf. Most were between 20 and 40 years old.

In addition to the cancer, the baby’s deformity made Diane suspicious. In fact, a relative from Georgia asked permission to put the baby on a list of sick and deformed babies born to other gulf war veterans’ wives. Diane agreed.

Dr. Andrew Poole, director of the cranial and facial team at the University of Connecticut Health Clinic, said there is no evidence of what caused the deformity. Extensive checks on boths sides of Diane’s and Joe’s families found no evidence of cleft lip and palate, he said.

There is no study showing what a father’s chemical exposures can later do to his baby, he said.

Joe worried about more than the chemical sprays, Diane said. The prisoners had varieties of illnesses. He received an anthrax vaccine to counteract bacterial infections. He breathed in fumes from oil well fires. He drank supposedly purified Persian Gulf ocean water, she said, and showered in rusty water. He donned his gas mask several times to protect himself during missile attacks when chemical warning alarms went off.

After being convinced by other sick veterans that chemical exposures led to Joe’s illness, Diane found Amvets,
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a veterans’ advocacy group, in Hartford. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA’s paperwork appeared complex, said Diane, particularly since she was trying to handle it during her husband’s stomach surgery. He was in the hospital for a month.

I’m fairly intelligent, and I’m looking at this paperwork and I got to say . . . they’re just trying to get you to write the wrong thing somewhere. . . . I called an attorney and the attorney didn’t really know how to do it, either,” she said.

At first, the VA said it would take 12 to 18 months for a ruling. When Diane pressed for a quicker decision, within weeks the VA turned down the request, Diane said. The agency never interviewed him or his doctor, she said. The VA ruled last month in a short, unsigned form letter that Joe’s disability was not related to the war.

The Dulkas are appealing. The VA refused to comment because individual medical cases are confidential.

Diane said Joe is so upset and weak from his illness that she is doing the talking for him. If we don’t get the benefits,” she said, we’ll be ruined and that is it.”

Diane estimates medical bills for her husband and her son, to help clear up the baby’s deformity, have cost $70,000 to $80,000. Joe’s medical insurance has paid 80 percent,
dr martens flower Battles Not Over For Gulf War Veteran
she said.