3 gulf war veterans' wives sue U.S. over birth defects Women say chemicals led to youths' abnormalities

August 15, 1996|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

Three wives of U.S. servicemen are suing the federal government, claiming their husbands' exposure to toxic chemicals and dangerous immunizations during the Persian Gulf war caused severe birth defects in their children.

The three multimillion-dollar lawsuits filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore may be the first of their kind filed by spouses of gulf war veterans. H. Russell Smouse, who is representing the families, said yesterday that he knew of no other similar suits.

"These servicemen and their wives had children before their service in the gulf war who were born normal. The children involved here after the period of service were born with significant defects," said Smouse, who is with the Law Offices of Peter Angelos.

The suits say that all three children, who range in age from 2 to 4, were born with asymmetrical bodies -- with one side smaller than the other.

Each child also has many other defects, including kidney and lung problems, brain deformities, bowel defects and, in one case, a missing ear.

The mothers are married to men who served in the Persian Gulf from 1990 to 1991 and were given dangerous combinations of immunizations and exposed to toxic pesticides that later caused birth defects, the suits say.

The immunizations included anthrax vaccine, botulinus toxoid and gamma globulin. The pesticides included chemicals known as chlorpyrifos (Dursban) and diethyltoluamide (DEET).

The suit claims that the federal government "negligently administered and/or exposed" the servicemen "to these hazardous, unreasonably dangerous, defective products without proper testing, approval, warnings "

Numerous reports have been made in the past few years of children with severe birth defects born to men who served in the gulf war, prompting the U.S. Senate to pass a measure in June giving the children extra medical benefits.

Similar reports of birth defects have surfaced recently in Britain, where the Ministry of Defense has ordered a study of reports of birth defects in children born to men and women who served in the war with Iraq.

In the suit filed this week in Baltimore, the plaintiffs are: Kimberly Walsh of Virginia Beach, Va., the mother of Jena Walsh, 4. Kimberly Walsh and wife of Navy Chief Petty Officer Brian Walsh.

Denise Blake of Aberdeen, the mother of Katelyn L. Blake, 2, and wife of Army Pvt. Paul F. Blake.

Marilyn Minns of Fort Meade, the mother of Casey R. Minns, 3, and wife of Army Sgt. Brad A. Minns.

The three women either declined to comment or could not be reached yesterday.

Each seeks $20 million for medical expenses, their lost wages, pain and suffering.

Before filing the suits in U.S. District Court, each family submitted a claim to the Office of the Judge Advocate General at Fort Meade seeking $20 million in compensation. The military has rejected those claims.

Pub Date: 8/15/96

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