Is there a geographical pattern to help explain why 1991 Gulf War veterans contracted the fatal neurological disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS – Also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) at twice the normal rate during the decade after the conflict? This is what researchers are trying to find out. Using geographic information systems (GIS) to study environmental health problems researchers have made a break through in the case. By layering military records of troop locations onto Gulf-area maps, it was found that there were some areas of service where there appears to be an elevated risk.
Another study has also found that the risk for developing ALS has now decreased among 1991 Gulf War vets. That suggests that the cause or causes of the ALS had something to do with their deployment in the region between August 1990 and July 1991.
Of the 135 cases diagnosed among the vets within 11 years after the war, only three had a family history of the disease. The small numbers might indicate that there is an environmental cause for ALS.
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Melissa Lawrence, Rutgers Student Intern, VERTICES, LLC