Background: Since 1993, many studies on the health of Persian Gulf War veterans (PGWVs) have been undertaken. Some authors have concluded that an association exists between Gulf War service and reported infertility or miscarriage, but that effects on PGWV's children were limited. The present study's objective was to describe the reproductive outcome and health of offspring of French Gulf War veterans.
Methods: The French Study on the Persian Gulf War (PGW) and its Health Consequences is an exhaustive cross-sectional study on all French PGWVs conducted from 2002 to 2004. Data were collected by postal self-administered questionnaire. A case-control study nested in this cohort was conducted to evaluate the link between PGW-related exposures and fathering a child with a birth defect.
Results: In the present study, 9% of the 5,666 Gulf veterans who participated reported fertility disorders, and 12% of male veterans reported at least one miscarriage among their partners after the PGW. Overall, 4.2% of fathers reported at least one child with a birth defect conceived after the mission. No PGW-related exposure was associated with any birth defect in children fathered after the PGW mission. Concerning the reported health of children born after the PGW, 1.0% of children presented a pre-term delivery and 2.7% a birth defect. The main birth defects reported were musculoskeletal malformations (0.5%) and urinary system malformations (0.3%). Birth defect incidence in PGWV children conceived after the mission was similar to birth defect incidence described by the Paris Registry of Congenital Malformations, except for Down syndrome (PGWV children incidence was lower than Registry incidence).
Conclusion: This study did not highlight a high frequency of fertility disorders or miscarriage among French PGW veterans. We found no evidence for a link between paternal exposure during the Gulf War and increased risk of birth defects among French PGWV children.