We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
On Aug. 5, Desert Storm veterans attending a conference on “Gulf War Illnesses” suffered headaches and dizziness they blamed on a cleaning agent used by their hotel. Two participants who fainted were rushed to George Washington University Hospital and released later that day. Though no one was seriously hurt, the 45 vets attending the conference are angry that the Embassy Suites Hotel on 22nd Street NW ignored their pleas not to use any cleaners or other odorous chemicals near them, since many of them say they suffer from Gulf War-related “multiple chemical sensitivity.” (The government has yet to acknowledge that Gulf War Syndrome exists.) This was the fourth time in recent years that members of the Operation Desert Shield/Storm Association (ODSSA) have had to curtail their meetings because of ordinary chemicals used by hotels. Embassy Suites says it abided by the vets’ request not to use rug cleaners and other chemicals in the veterans’ rooms but says the vets didn’t emphasize just how susceptible they are. ODSSA members suspect that cleansers used in a decorative waterfall triggered their reactions. The vets acknowledge that the hotel’s managers invited them to billet an extra night for free. But they evacuated when a barrage of painters began spack ling the stairwells.