Source: USA Today
U.S. bombings of Iraqi munitions factories in January 1991 released a plume of sarin gas that traveled more than 300 miles to affect American troops in Saudi Arabia, although military officials claimed at the time that chemical alarms triggered by the gas were false, a study released today shows.
The Jan. 18, 1991, bombings of the munitions plants in Nasiriyah and Khamisiya blew a plume of sarin gas high above a layer of cold, still air — also called the boundary level — and into a swift wind stream that carried the gas to Saudi Arabia, said the study conducted by researchers Robert Haley and James Tuite and published in journal Neuroepidemiology.
The gas plumes, the researchers said, can be blamed for symptoms of Gulf War illness, the mysterious ailment that affected more than 250,000 veterans of the war.
The gas set off repeated chemical weapons alarms at U.S. troop points in Saudi Arabia, the report said, but commanders said they were false alarms, because if the troops had been hit with sarin gas, there would have been casualties. There were no casualties, although U.S., Czech and French systems all detected traces of sarin and mustard agent.
Compounding the effects of the sarin were Scud missile attacks on the bases by Iraqi forces, Haley and Tuite reported, because the missiles would stir up the airborne toxic gases and force the sarin to drift back into the base level of air, which would set off the chemical alarms again.
The two researchers investigated satellite images and weather charts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to determine the movements of the sarin plume. Haley is the chief of epidemiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and Tuite is a former Secret Service senior agent who has worked as an investigator for the Pentagon and the Government Accountability Office.
Their report shows satellite images depicting a yellow patch of gas in the air above where U.S. troops were based.
“You can see it,” Haley said. “This is simple. … There it is. There’s no doubt.”
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