Gulf War Illness: As clear as the nose on your face

If you follow environmental health policy, then you're well aware that there are more than a few folks out there who continue to assure us that low-dose exposures to toxic chemicals don't harm human health, despite a whole lot of (rapidly mounting) evidence to the contrary. Of course, this "there's not enough proof" and "if I can't see it I won't believe it" attitude is hardly limited to environmental health.

Right off the top of my head I can think of several other issues where some people's refusal to acknowledge and/or fully explore cause-and-effect continue to cause human suffering and delayed action at great cost. Gulf War illness is one of them.

Just yesterday, 17 years after the Gulf War began in 1991, a Congressionally-mandated Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses issued a 450-page report stating what has long been suspected but not fully accepted: it's real. Or, in the Committee chairman's own words, "When you look at all the studies, it's as clear as the nose on your face that this is real." How real? The report's press release says more:

The new report says that scientific evidence "leaves no question that Gulf War illness is a real condition," and it cites dozens of research studies that have identified "objective biological measures" that distinguish veterans with the illness from healthy controls.

Those measures relate to structure and functioning of the brain, functioning of the autonomic nervous system, neuroendocrine and immune alterations, and variability in enzymes that protect the body from neurotoxic chemicals.

And to make it even more difficult for veterans, the Committee's Science Director explains how sufferers have been treated:

"Veterans of the first Gulf War have been plagued by ill health since their return 17 years ago. Although the evidence for this health phenomenon is overwhelming, veterans repeatedly find that their complaints are met with cynicism and a 'blame the victim' mentality that attributes their health problems to mental illness or non-physical factors."
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