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Minor Birth Defects Up in Progeny of Female Gulf War Veterans

Higher prevalence seen for minor birth defects, including eye and musculoskeletal anomalies

THURSDAY, April 25, 2019 (HealthDay News) — The odds of having a child with a minor birth defect are about five times higher for women veterans deployed during the Gulf War (DV) versus nondeployed women veterans (NDV), according to a study published in the April issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Marwan S. Shinawi, M.D., from Washington University in St. Louis, and colleagues examined the prevalence of birth defects among 788 singleton children born after the Gulf War (July 1, 1991) to 522 veterans (262 DV and 260 NDV).

The researchers found no differences between children of DV and NDV women in the prevalence of major birth defects or other findings. However, compared with children of NDV women, children of DV women were more likely to have minor birth defects (4.8 percent for NDV women versus 22 percent for DV women; odds ratio, 5.47). Specifically, this difference was mainly due to an increased incidence of minor eye and musculoskeletal birth defects (such as drooping eyelid: 13 percent for DV women versus about 2 percent for NDV women). Significant predictors of minor birth defects included exposure to mustard gas and nerve gas.

“Our data emphasize the need to perform a meticulous physical examination looking for birth defects, especially eye and musculoskeletal anomalies, in children born to war veterans who are referred for evaluation of different medical problems,” a coauthor said in a statement.

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