Why People Believe They Were Exposed to Biological or Chemical Warfare: A Survey of Gulf War Veterans

9 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2006

See all articles by Noel T. T. Brewer

Noel T. T. Brewer

Gillings School of Global Public Health

Sarah E. Lillie

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

William K. Hallman

Rutgers University

Abstract

The study sought to understand better how people come to believe they have been exposed to biological and chemical warfare. We conducted telephone interviews with 1,009 American veterans (65% response rate) deployed and not deployed to the Gulf War, a conflict during which there were credible threats that such warfare could be used. Only 6% of non-Gulf War veterans reported exposure to biological or chemical warfare, but most of Gulf War veterans reported exposure (64%). The majority of these were unsure whether the exposure was chemical or biological in nature. The most commonly reported exposure indicators were receiving an alert from the military and having physical symptoms. Veterans who were certain of the type of exposure (biological or chemical) were more likely to recall having been told by the military and to recall physical symptoms. Future communications with soldiers and the general public about biological and chemical warfare may need to emphasize the uncertain nature of such risk information. Evaluations of exposure diagnostic technologies should take into account the problem of people initially believing, but not later discounting, false positive results.

Suggested Citation

Brewer, Noel T. and Lillie, Sarah E. and Hallman, William K., Why People Believe They Were Exposed to Biological or Chemical Warfare: A Survey of Gulf War Veterans. Risk Analysis, Vol. 26, No. 2, pp. 337-345, April 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=943235 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2006.00750.x

Noel T. Brewer (Contact Author)

Gillings School of Global Public Health ( email )

Chapel Hill, NC 27599
United States
(919) 966-3282 (Phone)
(919) 966-2921 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.unc.edu/~ntbrewer/publications.html

Sarah E. Lillie

National Institutes of Health (NIH) ( email )

9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20892
United States

HOME PAGE: http://appliedresearch.cancer.gov/about/staff/

William K. Hallman

Rutgers University ( email )

Department of Human Ecology
55 Dudley Road
New Brunswick, NJ 08901-5420
United States
848 932 9227 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://humanecology.rutgers.edu/faculty.asp?fid=28

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