Purpose: To determine if there is an increased risk of any cause specific mortality associated with low level mustard gas exposure among World War II Navy veterans.
Methods: A retrospective mortality follow-up study was conducted comparing the mortality of World War II Navy veterans who received low-level non-lethal exposures of mustard gas to that of World War II Navy veterans who were not exposed. This study identified 1545 Navy recruits stationed at Bainbridge, Maryland, between 1944-1945, who voluntarily participated in mustard gas chamber tests. These veterans were exposed to mustard gas while wearing protective clothing and masks. Control veterans consisted of 2663 Navy veterans who served at the same location and time as the exposed, but did not participate in chamber tests. Cause specific mortality risks associated with mustard gas exposure and level of mustard gas exposure were examined using adjusted and unadjusted relative risk estimates.
Results: There was no excess of any cause specific mortality associated with varying levels of mustard gas exposures among Navy veterans subject to the chamber tests.
Conclusions: The levels of mustard gas exposures experienced by World War II veterans, which were sufficient to cause skin reactions (erythema, vesicles, and ulceration), were not associated with any increased risk of cause specific mortality.