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Chemical Agent Resistant Coating, February 2000

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. This is an interim, not a final, report. We hope that you will read this and contact us with any information that would help us better understand the events reported here. With your help, we will be able to report more accurately on the events surrounding the use of CARC. Please contact my office to report any new information by calling: 1-800-497-6261.

Last Update: Feb. 22, 2022

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 November 12, 1996, and gathered information on the use of chemical agent resistant coating.

To inform the public about the progress of this office, the Department of Defense is publishing on the Internet and elsewhere accounts related to the possible causes of illnesses among Gulf War veterans, along with documentary evidence or personal testimony used in compiling the accounts. This environmental exposure report is such an account.


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 U.S. military personnel. As part of the deployment, the United States shipped thousands of vehicles and other equipment into the Kuwait theater of operations. Though the majority of the equipment was immediately available for operational use, much of it had the three-color woodland camouflage paint scheme characteristic of the European theater or the continental United States. Consequently, there was an urgent requirement to repaint some of the incoming equipment with tan chemical agent resistant coating to provide desert camouflage protection.

Read the Full 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 CARC?


B. Technical Specifications


C. Health Considerations


D. Occupational Safety and Health Guidance


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

The commitment of U.S. forces to the Kuwait theater of operations in support of Operation Desert Shield required the rapid deployment of troops and equipment to the region from the continental United States and Europe. Because much of this equipment arrived in-theater, particularly the equipment from Army’s VII Corps, painted in woodland camouflage colors, Central Command directed that units paint their equipment with tan CARC to enhance troop survivability. The U.S. Army XVIII Airborne Corps painted a significant portion of its combat vehicles tan before deployment. For this reason, CARC painting in the Kuwait theater of operations focused on the vehicles of the VII Corps.

A. Read the Full 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 Painting Operations


G. Post War Guidance


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

Following their service in the Gulf War, the 325th Maintenance Company returned to Florida. As previously discussed, a number of soldiers from the unit had experienced health problems while in Saudi Arabia. In many cases, these health problems persisted or even intensified after their return home. As a result of the large number of health problems within the 325th, health testing was conducted while the unit was at an annual training tour of duty at Ft. Stewart in 1992. An Army occupational medicine physician from Florida examined members of the 325th. He reported skin rashes in 10 to 15 soldiers, as well as a number of cases of non-specific symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, and sleep difficulty. The physician was also able to perform pulmonary function tests on 20 to 30 soldiers from the unit. He recalls asthma-like symptoms in a number of these soldiers, many of whom complained of recurring breathing difficulties. He also noted that he saw symptoms consistent with possible chemical sensitization from CARC exposure in some of the soldiers.[158] Due to the numerous health complaints within the unit, all Gulf War veterans still in the unit were given several other tests including blood tests while at Ft. Stewart.[159]

Read the Full Follow-Up


VI. Conclusion

Read the Conclusion


VII. Lessons Learned

The following section contains a number of important lessons developed during the investigation of CARC painting performed in the Kuwait theater of operations. 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


Tab A. Acronyms, Abbreviations, and Glossary

This section 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

View the Bibliography


Tab C. CARC Paint Specifications and Formulations

A. Technical Specifications


CARC Paint Formulations


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

See the Examples


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