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Susceptibility to radiation adverse effects in veterans with Gulf War illness and healthy civilians

  • Golomb, Beatrice Alexandra
  • Berg, Brinton Keith
  • Han, Jun Hee
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2024
eScholarship - University of California
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We evaluated whether veterans with Gulf War illness (VGWI) report greater ionizing radiation adverse effects (RadAEs) than controls; whether radiation-sensitivity is tied to reported chemical-sensitivity; and whether environmental exposures are apparent risk factors for reported RadAEs (rRadAEs). 81 participants (41 VGWI, 40 controls) rated exposure to, and rRadAEs from, four radiation types. The relations of RadAE-propensity (defined as the ratio of rRadAEs to summed radiation exposures) to Gulf War illness (GWI) presence and severity, and to reported chemical-sensitivity were assessed. Ordinal logistic regression evaluated exposure prediction of RadAE-propensity in the full sample, in VGWI, and stratified by age and chemical-sensitivity. RadAE-propensity was increased in VGWI (vs. controls) and related to GWI severity (p < 0.01) and chemical-sensitivity (p < 0.01). Past carbon monoxide (CO) exposure emerged as a strong, robust predictor of RadAE-propensity on univariable and multivariable analyses (p < 0.001 on multivariable assessment, without and with adjustment for VGWI case status), retaining significance in age-stratified and chemical-sensitivity-stratified replication analyses. Thus, RadAE-propensity, a newly-described GWI-feature, relates to chemical-sensitivity, and is predicted by CO exposure-both features reported for nonionizing radiation sensitivity, consistent with shared mitochondrial/oxidative toxicity across radiation frequencies. Greater RadAE vulnerability fits an emerging picture of heightened drug/chemical susceptibility in VGWI.

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