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Birth Defects Among 788 Children Born to Gulf War Veterans Based on Physical Examination

Shinawi, Marwan S., MD; Alpern, Renee, MS; Toomey, Rosemary, PhD; Dannenfeldt, Diane S., MS; Reda, Domenic J., PhD; Blanchard, Melvin, MD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: April 2019 - Volume 61 - Issue 4 - p 263–270
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001508

Objective: The aim of the study was to examine the prevalence of birth defects among children born to Gulf War veterans.

Methods: Seven hundred eighty-eight singleton children born after the war to 522 veterans (262 Gulf War-deployed, DV; 260 non-deployed, NDV) underwent physical examinations focusing on major and minor birth defects and other findings.

Results: We found no differences between children of DV and NDV in the prevalence of major birth defects or other findings. However, children of DV women were more likely to have minor birth defects compared with children of NDV women (DV 22% NDV 4.8%, odds ratio: 5.47, confidence interval: 2.06, 14.55), mainly due to increased incidence of minor eye and musculoskeletal birth defects.

Conclusions: Our data show that deployment of women to the Persian Gulf arena was associated with increased risk of minor birth defects in their offspring.

Division of Genetics and Genomic Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Washington University School of Medicine (Dr Shinawi); Cooperative Studies Program Coordinating Center, Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital, Hines, Illinois (Ms Alpern, Ms Dannenfeldt, Dr Reda); Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts (Dr Toomey); and Washington University School of Medicine (Dr Blanchard), St. Louis, Missouri.

Address correspondence to: Melvin Blanchard, MD, Washington University School of Medicine, 660 South Euclid, Campus Box 8121, St. Louis, MO 63110 (

Funding/Sponsors/Competing interests: Cooperative Studies Program, Office of Research and Development, Department of Veterans Affairs. This study (CSP #458) received support from the Cooperative Studies Program, Office of Research and Development, Department of Veterans Affairs. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the VA.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2019 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine