Friday, January 11, 2013


Yet another tragic consequence of war has emerged, but most Americans don't even know about it. Children of American veterans face a much higher risk of birth defects than the general population, according to Birth Defect Research for Children (BDRC), a non-profit organization that provides parents with information about birth defects and support services for their children.

BDRC, which created The National Birth Defect Registry and has been tracking birth defects and developmental disabilities among children of U.S. military veterans since 1990, says incidents of birth defects in that population are tragically on the rise. And now the organization is asking the public for help in garnering support for a research center to study the phenomena.

BDRC has started a petition urging the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) to establish a research center to identify how toxic chemical exposures may have triggered birth defects in veterans’ children and provide state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment.

Betty Mekdeci, BDRC’s tireless founder and executive director,  says veterans are dying, but even more tragically, the children they’ve left behind are suffering. 

"But we don't know where to send these folks for treatment," she says. "That's what this petition is all about. If more people knew this was going on, I believe they would support what we are doing. Americans are very supportive of our troops. This is the very least we owe them: to take care of their children."

BDRC was the first organization to discover birth defects in children of Gulf War veterans way back in 1992. Recent peer-reviewed scientific studies confirm that hundreds of thousands of Gulf War veterans were exposed to toxic chemicals while deployed. 

A 1997 study by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research showed that among Gulf War veterans' children, the birth defect rate is more than seven percent at birth. The normal birth defect rate, Mekdeci notes, is 2 to 3 percent at birth.

Here are just some of the published papers that have found links between service in the Gulf War and birth defects:

          1997 Teratology – Aranetta - tripling of Goldenhar Syndrome in Gulf War veteran infants born in military hospitals.

          2001 Ann of Epidemiology – Kang – increased reporting of birth defects significantly associated with military service in the Gulf War.

          2003 Birth Defects Research – Aranetta – higher prevalence of tricuspid valve insufficiency, aortic valve stenosis and renal agenesis in infants conceived postwar by Gulf War veteran fathers; hypospadias in boys born to Gulf War veteran mothers.

          2004 Internat. J. of Epidemiology – Doyle – increased risk of miscarriage, malformations of genital system, urinary system, digestive system, musculo-skeletal system and non-chromosome anomalies in children of Gulf War veteran fathers.

And it's not just the Gulf War. Veterans of the Vietnam War have suffered greatly from exposure to toxic chemicals including Agent Orange/dioxin. And veterans who fought more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, too, have been exposed to a variety of toxic chemicals.

Paul Sullivan, a highly respected veterans advocate who works at Bergmann & Moore, a law firm that solely represents veterans, says toxic exposures are prevalent among our deployed troops because there are no enforceable environmental laws on the battlefield for ingestion, inhalation, or absorption of hazardous chemicals. 

"There was widespread depleted uranium dust contamination of hundreds of thousands of U.S. service members during the 1991 Gulf War," explains Sullivan. "However, the VA has refused to perform long-term, post-deployment scientific medical research on Desert Storm veterans, even though this is a known carcinogen and associated with birth defects in animal studies."

Sullivan notes that the Department of Defense (DoD) also confirms hundreds of thousands of U.S. service members were exposed to low levels of chemical warfare agents, pesticides, experimental pills, massive oil well fire pollution, and other waste in Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. 

"Nearly 2.5 million Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans were stationed at or near burn pits that destroyed human remains, surgical supplies, plastics, fuel, and other harmful poisons," says Sullivan, who emphasizes that veterans with disabled children should know their legal rights when dealing with the VA.  

"There are two benefit laws applicable to the children of Vietnam War veterans," he says. "Veterans of both genders who have biological children diagnosed with spina bifida may receive VA disability benefits for the child. And biological children of women Vietnam War veterans diagnosed with certain medical conditions may be eligible for VA as well."

VA Regulation 38 CFR 3.815, which lists the medical conditions, can be found at this link.   

"Because battlefields are heavily contaminated, Congress should fund significantly more scientific research into the long-term adverse impacts of military toxic exposures," suggests Sullivan. "And when scientific research finds more associations between toxic exposures and adverse medical conditions among the biological children of our veterans, VA should provide both benefits and treatment."

Mekdeci says that since 1991, thousands of veterans, their spouses, and their children have sent the BDRC poignant, heartbreaking messages about how exposure to chemicals has affected their lives. 

“These families are frustrated because they don’t know where to turn for proper diagnosis and treatment of their children’s disorders," she says. "We want to serve our veterans as they have served us by petitioning for a 'Children's Center' that would be staffed by specialists who would provide free diagnosis and treatment for their serious health conditions and work with their doctors back home to continue care in their own communities.” These children did not sign up to go to war."


  1. Exposure to ionizing radiation, even with single exposure at low dosage, causes mutation in DNA. The adult who was exposed may survive without apparent health damage (or live long enough to develop cancer or immune disorder later), but often his/her DNA mutation is passed down to their future offspring, manifesting in birth defects, leukemia, immune system problems of the second to even fifth or sixth generation down the road.

    I learned this from reading “The Woman Who Knew Too Much: Alice Stewart and the Secrets of Radiation”. The book also talked about the “Hanford radiation study” that statistically proved, from the record of a large number of workers and their health history, that long-term exposure to low background radiation is more harmful than a single high dose exposure.

    I recommend the book for the families of these veterans and their legal teams because it explains clearly in layperson’s terms the flaws and lies of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki studies, the ‘radiation bible’ that the industry and government often cite to dispute the risk of low dose ionizing radiation.

  2. An excellent article. Please let us know more about birth defects among Iraqis and veterans of the Iraq War as the story continues to unfold.

  3. My name is Brand Neilson & I am a Persian Gulf Veteran who was just informed today that my 15 year old daughter has kidney cancer. There is no known history of cancer in my family. I have my own medical problems related to my military service, when I mentioned my problems & service I am ignored. I have read there is genetic testing available to confirm that my daughter's cancer could be related to my gulf service. Does anyone know where to go or who to contact for help with getting this testing done? please contact me at if you have any useful info. Thanks

  4. There are two benefit laws applicable to the children of Vietnam War veterans!!

  5. My youngest daughter was born in 1992. My husband served in the Gulf War. At age 4 my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. She went through 2 1/2 years of treatment and then when she was 10 she was rediagnosed with leukemia which was very intensive and expensive. I have always been curious if this could have had something to do with him being in the war. Was so busy trying to get her healthy we never dug into it. Not sure what to do now, if anything.

  6. I am a child of a Gulf War vet, born in 1994, and since the age of 16 have been experience almost the exact same symptoms as my father. I'm only 21 and I feel 50 on a daily basis. I have two kids of my own and I'm scared of this being passed down to them as well.

    1. I'm also a child of a Gulf War vet, born in '93 and may be in the same boat. Could you email me at

  7. Im an iraq veteran marine infantry involved in inital assult to baghdad mar 22 2003. Two tours of duty 18 mos total. I have an 18 month old son born with trisomy 9.... VERY RARE..... worried about my exposure.... both of us are permanently disabled... im 100% but have no idea how to get v.a. or anyone else for that matter to help me look into whats wrong with my son. He was born very sick and almost died at birth..... not alot is known about what he has and they wont eventest me to see if i might be responsible for passing this on to him or any future children i may have..... devistated by this governments lack of responsibility to find out exactly whats going with all of our veterans from all eras. When they do come up with answers the keep findings secret cause its "too difficult to treat or diagnose" yep more like too expensive.... it wasnt "too difficult" to send a bunch of kids to some horrible country and screw us and our children out of normal lifes was it? Sorry were having so many problems and costing you so much money! Don't worry i push aside the thoughts that i would of rather died over there about fifteen or twenty times a day and just thank god i didint.... more than i can say for many of my brothers who dont have that option.... thanks uncle sam.... joined the marines a patriot... got out broken and pissed off having to fight a pointless war for a bunch of leer jet texas ranch and house in the hamptons owning jerks in 5000 dollar suits that will NEVER understand what our freedom really cost..... last time i checked i dont remember seeing anyone of the bush boys standing in those burning oil fields or piles of depelited uranium saturated rubble that i was when we got to baghdad.... in fact i didnt even know the war had a name until about 6 months after the not so famous mission accomplished speech.... can anyone tell me exactly what part of that mission has been accomplished.... opperation enduring freedom???? Opperation Iraqi freedom??? My son and i will never be done enduring he was born disabled and im permantly that way as well.... iraq still isnt free from the grips of radical Islam and its many "cells" of extreemists and that dosnt look to be changing any time soon....

    1. My husband is OIF 05-07 vet. Our child post war was born with craniofacial anomalies and tone differences. Had a heart problem but mysteriously fixed itself(thank you jesus). Developmental disabilities. Her genetics testing came back normal but one gene has been mutated. We as parents/veterans know exactly how this happened. Its just like agent orange, they can try and deny it for so long until we get facilities to test and shove the results up their ass. The va tested my husband for DU, guess what.. his unnatural du levels are higher than natural DU but they still deny everything.

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    3. Hello...I am a veteran of OEF and spent 7 months overseas in 2002 Afghanistan. I defiantly have my own issues that I deal with but more importantly, my soon to be 12 year old son was born with a craniofacial disorder also. He was born with craniosynostosis, Trigonocephaly. He has struggle his entire life because his brain did not develop correctly. He requires medication daily just so he can attend school. He was also born with a heart murmur but it corrected itself. Our third child was born with an Echogenic intracardiac focus. Neither my husband nor myself have or had any of the aforementioned medical issues and none of the family either.
      I 100% believe that the tour overseas is the reason that I was now have premature ovarian failure and went through menopause when I was 35 years old. All of which the VA denies.
      We were a hospital unit in the desert so you can just imagine the things we were burning! Not to mentions the Mefloquine every Monday night for 9 months. I am going to make it my mission in life to prove this was not supposed to happen to him or myself.

  8. Wife and I were both in Desert Shield/Storm. Army in the Sand Box. Couple of miscarriages during the 1990's that my wife had. Son born 1992, NOW we found out he has some medical issues found by MRI in Apr 2016.
    Daughter born in 2002 with Hydrocephalus, 1 month premature due to it's condition. 3 months NICU, couple of seizures and shunt revision since birth. Now looking to see if the kids conditions are related to wife and I being in theater.

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  10. I'm a Vietnam era vet Agent Orange was sprayed on Andersen AFB from 1968-1978 I have a granddaughter with a form of Spina bifida and special needs.Airmen have testified spraying it to a military court and Congress by Msgt Leroy Foster.His spraying was by his account 7x that used in Vietnam...but the VA denies and the DOD lies it was ever there.

  11. Wife had misscarrage daughter premature with hole in heart granddaughter eye operation tethered spinal cord Spina bifida...I have extreme low vitamin D constant kidney stones too.

  12. I am a Desert Storm and OIF veteran. My unit was one of many that got contaminated by the kamisaya(?)demolitions. My family has never had any birth defects in our history and my son was born with cerebral palsy, bipolar, one kidney, and seizures. Pluse he was born with a growth in his neck that was surgically removed when he was a year old. So many of my friends that served have reported birth defects in their children as well. Something needs to be done and our children need help!