What are organophosphates?
Organophosphates are a group of human-made chemicals that poison insects and mammals. Organophosphates are the most widely used insecticides today. They are used in agriculture, the home, gardens, and veterinary practice.
Organophosphate insecticides (such as diazinon) are one type of pesticide that works by damaging an enzyme in the body called acetylcholinesterase. This enzyme is critical for controlling nerve signals in the body. The damage to this enzyme kills pests and may cause unwanted side effects in exposed humans. All organophosphates have a common mechanism of toxicity and can cause similar symptoms in humans who have too much exposure.
Pesticides and Gulf War Veterans
VA evaluated pesticide exposure as a possible cause of Gulf War Veterans’ chronic multisymptom illnesses and concluded that research does not support an association currently. Read VA’s rationale in the Federal Register notice.
VA continues to study the health of Gulf War Veterans.
If you are concerned about your exposure, talk to your health care provider or contact your local VA Environmental Health Coordinator to help you get more information from a health care provider.
Pesticides used in the Gulf War
Pesticides used in the Gulf War fall into several major categories:
- Methyl carbamate organochlorine pesticides (lindane), used to treat uniforms
- DEET, used on the skin as an insect repellent
- Organophosphorus (OP) pesticides
- Pyrethroid pesticides (primarily permethrin)
Lindane and DEET were used as personal insect repellents, lindane to treat uniforms and DEET on the skin. All other pesticides shipped to the Gulf region were to be used only by specially trained individuals or for specific applications.
Visit the Deployment Health and Family Readiness Library to learn how DEET and permethrin-impregnated clothing are used during service.