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Chemical Agent Resistant Coating

Final Report, July 27, 2000

Many veterans of the Gulf War have expressed concern that their unexplained illnesses may result from their experiences in that war. In response to veterans’ concerns, the Department of Defense established a task force in June 1995 to investigate those incidents and circumstances relating to possible causes. The Office of the Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Gulf War Illnesses assumed responsibility for these investigations on Nov. 12, 1996.

Environmental Exposure Reports are reports of what we know today about certain events of the 1990-1991 Gulf War. This particular environmental exposure report focuses on the use of chemical agent resistant coating (CARC). The purpose of this report is to discuss the CARC painting activities conducted in the Kuwait Theater of Operations, describe possible health effects associated with exposure to CARC, and present recommendations for improvements in policy about CARC application. The narrative was initially published on Feb. 22, 2000. Since that time, the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses received new information which indicates that some civilian painters from Anniston, Alabama have experienced some medical problems which they attribute to their use of CARC paint during the Gulf War. No other information which contradicts the material presented here was received, nor have any additional leads developed to change the narrative’s assessments. Additionally, the Presidential Special Oversight Board reviewed the narrative and recommended that the Office of the Special Assistant republish it as final. For this reason, this is a final report. However, if you believe you have information which may change this case narrative, please contact my office by calling1-800-497-6261.


I. Summary

The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, led to Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and the deployment of approximately 697,000 US military personnel to the Kuwait Theater of Operations (KTO). As part of the deployment, the United States shipped thousands of vehicles and other equipment to the Persian Gulf, primarily, to Saudi Arabia. While most of the equipment was fully operational, much of it retained the three-color "woodland camouflage" paint scheme designed for operations in the European Theater or other non-desert areas of operation. This "woodland cammo" pattern obviously stuck out in the barren desert environment, making it easier for enemy gunners or reconnaissance assets to locate and target the vehicles. Consequently, there was an urgent operational requirement to repaint some of the incoming equipment with tan-colored chemical agent resistant coating (CARC) to provide desert camouflage protection.

View the Summary


II. Methodology

OSAGWI followed a five-step process in its investigation of the possible health risks related to the use of CARC. We limited our investigation to the major spray paint operations that were conducted in the Kuwait theater of operations.

A. Determine Chronology of Events


B. Determine Proper Standards and Procedures


C. Review Technical Specifications


D. Determine Possible Health Effects of Compounds of Concern


E. Review Medical Follow-up


III. Description of CARC

A. What is a CARC?


B. Technical Specifications


C. Heath Considerations


D. Occupational Safety and Health Guidance


IV. Use of CARC During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm

A. Overview


B. Painting Protocol During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm


C. Major Paint Operations


D. Health and Safety Inspections of the CARC Painting Operations


E. Marine Corps Painting Operations


F. Air Force and Navy Painting Operations


G. Post War Guidance


V. Medical Follow-up of the 325th Maintenance Company

View the Medical Follow-up


VI. Conclusions

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VII. Lessons Learned

The Gulf War brought on a heightened awareness of "dirty battlefield" hazards and their impact on the health and readiness of deployed forces. In the aftermath of the conflict, retrospective investigations and analyses, including this one, have identified deficiencies and gaps in the way the Department of Defense and the Services recognized and responded to non-traditional or unanticipated risk factors. This awareness has in turn produced a major new emphasis on improving medical readiness and force health protection policies, programs, procedures, and guidance aimed at protecting the health and safety of deployed U.S. personnel. The following section contains a number of important lessons developed during the investigation of CARC painting performed in the Kuwait Theater of Operations (KTO). Where appropriate, the Office of the Special Assistant recommends the following courses of action to address the noted shortcomings.

Pre-deployment Painting


Painting in Theater


Medical Screening


Redeployment Painting Operations


Recommended Steps to Reduce Potential Exposures During CARC Painting Operations


Efforts to Implement Lessons Learned


Tab A. Acronyms, Abbreviations, and Glossary

This tab provides a listing of acronyms found in this report. Additionally, the Glossary section provides definitions for selected technical terms that are not found in common usage.

Acronyms and Abbreviations




Tab B. Bibliography

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Tab C. CARC Paint Specifications and Formulations

Technical Specifications


CARC Paint Formulations


Tab D. Examples of Solvents Contained in CARC and Paint Thinner Used During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm

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Tab E. Occupational Safety and Health Guidance

The following discussion of various occupational exposure criteria provides a framework to evaluate the exposures that occurred during the Gulf War. A direct comparison of the exposures during the Gulf War to these standards is theoretical since no workplace measurements were taken during the war. These standards are discussed in detail below and in the applicable cited references, but the most important aspect of this discussion is that there were no measurements taken during the Gulf War for direct comparison. Nevertheless, two conclusions can be drawn. First, current Army and federal occupational and safety directives clearly call for the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), including respiratory protection, during polyurethane (CARC) painting operations. Based on experience and professional judgment of the health and safety professionals monitoring the CARC painting operations in-theater, unprotected personnel who were spray painting CARC in the conditions documented in the Gulf were exposed to potentially hazardous conditions.

A. Occupational Safety and Health Requirements