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Research Study: Detoxification Program for Gulf War Veterans Who Suffer from Gulf War Illness

Our Research

 The Institute for Health and the Environment University at Albany, in collaboration with the Women’s Medical College of the University of Toronto and The Sage Colleges, has received funding from the Department of Defense for a Gulf War illness research project involving veterans of the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War who live in the Washington D.C./Baltimore area.

The objective of this project is to investigate whether a specific rehabilitative therapy involving exercise, sauna, and nutritional supplements, developed by L. Ron Hubbard can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life for Persian Gulf War veterans with Gulf War illness.

To be eligible for participation, you must be a veteran from the 1990-1991 Gulf War and experiencing health problems since your deployment in the Persian Gulf. Men and women are encouraged to participate.

The Study

Close to 700,000 U.S. military personnel served in the 1990-1991 Gulf War. Within about two years, approximately one in four developed persistent health effects now referred to as Gulf War illness; few have since improved or recovered.

A 2008 report from the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses noted that “evidence strongly and consistently indicates” that exposure to pesticides and pyridostigmine bromide (PB) pills are causally associated with Gulf War illness, adding that low-level exposure to nerve agents, close proximity to oil well fires, receipt of multiple vaccines, and effects of combinations of Gulf War exposures could not be ruled out as causes of Gulf War illness.

Modern medicine has few tools to address symptoms that may be associated with low-level exposures to toxic chemicals. We will be studying a regimen developed by Hubbard which utilizes widely available elements including exercise, low heat sauna and vitamin and mineral supplements which is aimed at increasing the elimination of stored toxins and repairing the effects of toxins in the body. The program is delivered on a 7-day per week schedule; on average, completion is attained within 33 days.

In the decades following its development, this regimen has been implemented to address exposure-related symptoms in a variety of populations, including: street drug users and addicts; Michigan residents exposed to fire retardant accidentally sold as cattle feed; electrical workers; firefighters, residents and workers affected by the Chernobyl disaster; and police exposed to chemicals during raids on illicit drug labs. Nearly 1,000 World Trade Center rescue workers have completed the program, with improvements in quality of life and job fitness.

The benefits of this therapy for Gulf War Veterans have not yet been evaluated. While sufficient evidence exists to support the project’s hypothesis that improvements will occur, no guarantees can be made regarding specific outcomes for participants in this research project.

Published reports and clinical experience in thousands of cases have established the safety of the program. Case histories of Gulf War veterans who have completed this program were presented at a 1999 Gulf War research conference organized by the Centers for Disease Control, and the final report from the conference recommended that a treatment trial be conducted to further examine its benefits. To date, no such trial has been undertaken.

The proposed research would respond to this recommendation. Its objective is to investigate whether this therapy can reduce symptoms and improve functional status for Persian Gulf War veterans with Gulf War illness. Improvements in fatigue and pain symptoms, quality of life, memory, thinking and reasoning abilities in a group of Gulf War veterans who have completed the regimen will be compared to those observed in a control group of Gulf War veterans receiving usual care who are randomly assigned to a waitlist. The control group will then undergo the program after a four to six week delay. In all, 50 veterans will participate.  Participants will additionally be asked to provide blood samples before and after for future contaminant analysis pending access to funding.

A demonstration via the proposed pilot trial that persistent Gulf War symptoms can be significantly reduced, and that affected veterans can regain a more normal quality of life, would support future large-scale clinical trials.


Who Qualifies?

Final determination of eligibility for participation in the study will be made by the Study Coordinator. However, the following will help you determine whether you may be eligible.

Participants in the study will be men or women who were deployed to the Persian Gulf region any time between August 1990 and July 1991, and who are experiencing symptoms associated with Gulf War illness.

These symptoms include fatigue, muscle and joint pain, sleeping difficulties, memory or cognitive problems, and others.

The detoxification program will be delivered in the Washington D.C./Baltimore area, and is aimed at veterans who live near enough to travel to the facility. (Support for transportation costs may be available.)

If you are interested in this study and believe you may be qualified to participate, or if you have questions about the study, please contact the Research Coordinator to schedule an interview:

Crystal Grant, MD, PhD

Study Coordinator


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Who will be qualified to participate in this study?

    • Answer: Veterans who were deployed to the Persian Gulf region any time between August 1990 and July 1991, and who are experiencing symptoms associated with Gulf War illness. These symptoms include fatigue, muscle and joint pain, sleeping difficulties, memory and cognitive problems, and others.

  2. Is there a cost to participate in this study?

    • Answer: No. There is no cost to participate in this study.

  3. What benefits will the participants get from this study?

    • Answer: We hypothesize that veterans with Gulf War illness who participate in this study will have a reduction of their symptoms and an improvement in their quality of life. This may or may not happen. Results will vary depending on the individual.

  4. Has the detoxification program been used before?

    • Answer: Yes. The detoxification program has been used since 1978. More recently it has been provided to rescue workers after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and other groups including firefighters, policemen and to treat drug abusers.

  5. How is this detoxification program designed to work?

    • Answer: This program is designed to increase the mobilization of fat-stored chemicals and toxins and reduce "body burden" (chemicals and toxins stored in body tissues).

  6. How long will this study last?

    • Answer: The intervention will last 4 - 6 weeks, but participants will be studied before the intervention and will be followed for a period of three months after completion of the intervention. If you are assigned to the waitlist group, your participation will be longer because you will take part in the intervention later.

  7. Are there any side effects for the participants?

    • Answer: This study is a natural, noninvasive approach that is generally safe. However, the daily sauna sessions and high dose vitamins and minerals carry some risks. Some participants will initially experience a red flush, an "itchy" reaction. Other possible risks or discomforts will be reviewed with you before you agree to take part.  

Research Team

Principal Investigator: David O. Carpenter, MD, Institute for Health and the Environment, University at Albany, Albany, New York

Co-Investigator: Kathleen Kerr, MD, Department of Family and Community, Women's College Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Co-Investigator: Gayle Morse, PhD, Department of Psychology, The Sage Colleges, Troy, New York

Study Physician: Maria Romero, MD, 133 Defense Highway, Suite 111, Annapolis, Maryland

Project Coordinator: Crystal Grant, PhD, Severna Park Health and Wellness Center, 128 Lubrano Drive, Suite L-102, Annapolis, Maryland 21401


Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses

Created by Congress in 1998, and first appointed by the Secretary of Veteran Affairs Anthony J Principi in January, 2002, the mission of the Committee is to make recommendations to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on government research relating to the health consequences of military service in the Southwest Asia theater of operations during the Persian Gulf War.

Gulf War Illness and the Health of Gulf War Veterans

A comprehensive report on the health of Gulf War veterans from the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.­GWVI/docs/Committee_Documents/GWIandHealthofGWVeterans_RAC­GWVIReport_2008.pdf

Research on Gulf War Illness

Recently-published research on Gulf War Illnesses and related topics, compiled by staff of the Research Advisory Committee.­GWVI/Recently_published_Gulf_War_Illness_related_Research_Articles.asp

The Health Impact of Chemical Exposures During the Gulf War: A Research Planning Conference

Final report from a planning conference sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1999 that includes a recommendation for detoxification studies.

The Health Impact of Chemical Exposures During the Gulf War: A Research Planning Meeting

Transcript of a Treatment Workgroup meeting at the 1999 CDC conference that includes testimony regarding detoxification.

For more information, contact:

Crystal Grant, PhD, Study Coordinator: (667) 217-0218 or


David O. Carpenter, MD, Principal Investigator: (518) 525-2660 or