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2 REPORTS DO LITTLE TO AID PROBE OF GULF WAR ILLNESSES

Two formal reports on the unexplained illnesses of thousands of Persian Gulf War veterans do little to ease the work of a presidential commission appointed to find out why so many of the U.S. troops became ill after returning home.

An Institute of Medicine report released Monday is critical of a study by the Pentagon that concluded that the American troops suffered from no new or unique illness associated with the war.That report said it investigated 10,020 gulf war veterans who had complained of a variety of ailments, from fatigue and headache to aching joints and poor concentration.

Many types of symptoms were reported by veterans, the study said, but there was no consistent pattern suggesting a single cause.

Some experts have suggested such ailments were the result of conditions in the battlefields of Operation Desert Storm, the U.S. campaign. These conditions included chemical pollutants from burning oil fields, garbage dumps, and insecticides.

The troops also received inoculations to protect against germ warfare and endured weeks of living in desert conditions, including blowing sand and biting insects.

The Defense Department report said it found no clinical evidence for a new or unique illness or syndrome among gulf war vet-er-ans."

But the Institute of Medicine panel said the Pentagon failed to back up that conclusion.

"The reasoning for this statement is not well explained, and the DOD states it as though it were self-evident," the Institute report said. It recommended that the department "either be more cautious in making this conclusion or justify it better."

The institute report also said the Pentagon needed to clarify health comparisons made between gulf veterans and other populations.

The Institute of Medicine is a private research organization associated with the National Academy of Sciences. It was asked by the Defense Department to analyze the gulf war veterans health study.

Members of the presidential commission met for the first time Monday. They are commissioned to have access to thousands of documents on the health of gulf war veterans and to receive testimony from experts and from veterans. The group will issue its report by the end of next year.