Gulf veterans 'find it more difficult to conceive'
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14/07/04 - Health section

Soldiers who served in the first Gulf War are more likely to experience 
problems trying to have a baby compared with other servicemen, research 
revealed today.

A study of more than 40,000 men found a small increased risk of 
infertility among Gulf veterans. Pregnancies among Gulf soldiers and 
their partners also took longer to conceive, according to the study 
published on bmj.com.

The research came as an independent inquiry was under way to 
investigate illnesses among those deployed to the Gulf during the 1991 
conflict.

The Ministry of Defence, which funded the study, has always denied the 
existence of a so-called Gulf War Syndrome, insisting there was no 
single cause of the illnesses suffered by veterans of the war.

Support groups claim about 6,000 veterans have suffered unexplained ill 
health since the conflict, and more than 600 are said to have died.

The latest study, by researchers at the London School of Hygiene and 
Tropical Medicine, questioned 24,379 male Gulf veterans, matched with a 
comparison group of 18,439 other servicemen.

The team, led by Noreen Maconochie, found that 732 Gulf veterans (7%) 
and 370 other servicemen (5%) had been to see a doctor over fertility 
concerns since the Gulf War.

Using information from the soldiers, the researchers calculated that 
failure to achieve a conception was 2.5% for Gulf veterans compared 
with 1.7% among non-Gulf veterans.

Failure to achieve a live birth was also higher among those who served 
in the Gulf - 3.4% compared with 2.3%.

Among the planned pregnancies, Gulf veterans took longer to conceive - 
9.1% took more than a year compared with 7.8% of non-Gulf veterans.

The researchers said that the effect did not decline with the amount of 
time since the war.

And it was not affected by whether the men had had children before the 
war or not.

Vaccines against anthrax and the plague, nerve agents from Iraqi 
chemical weapons storage facilities, pesticides and exposure to 
pollution from burning oil wells have been cited as possible causes of 
ill health in Gulf veterans.


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