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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Latest Biennial Review of Health Problems That May Be Linked to Agent Orange Exposure During Vietnam War Upgrades Bladder Cancer and Hypothyroidism, Downgrades Spina Bifida

From the 10 March 2016 National Academies Science Engineering Health news release


Latest Biennial Review of Health Problems That May Be Linked to Agent Orange Exposure During Vietnam War Upgrades Bladder Cancer and Hypothyroidism, Downgrades Spina Bifida 

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WASHINGTON – The latest and final in a series of congressionally mandated biennial reviews of the evidence of health problems that may be linked to exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides used during the Vietnam War changed the categorization of health outcomes for bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, and spina bifida and clarified the breadth of the previous finding for Parkinson’s disease.  The committee that carried out the study and wrote this reportVeterans and Agent Orange: Update 2014, reviewed scientific literature published between Oct. 1, 2012, and Sept. 30, 2014.


Bladder cancer and hypothyroidism were moved to the category of “limited or suggestive” evidence of an association from their previous positions in the default “inadequate or insufficient” category.  A finding of limited or suggestive evidence of an association means that the epidemiologic evidence indicates there could be a link between exposure to a chemical and increased risk for a particular health effect.  A finding of inadequate or insufficient evidence indicates that the available studies are of insufficient quality, consistency, or statistical power to permit a conclusion regarding the presence or absence of such a link.  For both bladder cancer and hypothyroidism, new results from a large study of Korean veterans who served in the Vietnam War were compellingly suggestive of an association.  In combination with pre-existing supportive epidemiologic findings and substantial biologic plausibility, the new information provided evidence to merit a change in category of association for these two outcomes.

In addition to reviewing the evidence of health problems that may be linked to exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides, the committee was asked to address the specific question of whether various conditions with Parkinson’s-like symptoms should qualify the assignment of Parkinson’s disease to the limited or suggestive category of association with herbicide exposure.  The committee noted that Parkinson’s disease is a diagnosis of exclusion, and therefore, the diagnostic standards for this condition should not be assumed to have been uniform in the epidemiologic studies that constitute the basis for this association or in the claims submitted by veterans.  Consequently, there is no rational basis for exclusion of individuals with Parkinson’s-like symptoms from the service-related category denoted as Parkinson’s disease.  To exclude a claim for a condition with Parkinson’s-like symptoms, the onus should be on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on a case-by-case basis to definitively establish the role of a recognized factor other than the herbicides sprayed in Vietnam.


Given that this is the final report mandated by the Agent Orange Act, the committee developed recommendations for future actions to advance the well-being of Vietnam veterans, including that the VA should continue epidemiologic studies of the veterans; develop protocols that could investigate paternal transmission of adverse effects to offspring; and design a study to focus on specific manifestations in humans of dioxin exposure and compromised immunity, which have been clearly demonstrated in animal models.  The committee also called for a careful review of evidence concerning whether paternal exposure to any toxicant has definitively resulted in abnormalities in the first generation of offspring.  In addition, the committee formulated recommendations for improved assembly and evaluation of information necessary for monitoring possible service-related health effects in all military personnel, including creating and maintaining rosters of individuals deployed on every mission and linking U.S. Department of Defense and VA databases to systematically identify, record, and monitor trends in veterans’ diseases.

March 11, 2016 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | | Leave a comment

Agent Orange the shameful legacy – Health Services Authors

The Veteran’s Administration continues to recognize a growing number of diseases related to Agent Orange in both veterans and their children. They have even gone so far to call these presumptive diseases, meaning the veterans do not have to show that certain diseases were caused by Agent Orange or other herbicides. The VA offers a range of benefits to those eligible.

However, it is only recently that the US government has begun to address the how Agent Orange has affected the Vietnamese who lived and/or are living in areas sprayed by Agent Orange and other herbicides.

It is good that the US federal government is taking responsibility for the effects of Agent Orange and other herbicides on the health of the Vietnamese and their physical environment. But it is distressing to know that the US military continues to use other materials, as depleted uranium, which endanger the health of military personnel and civilians alike.

The adverse effects of war on civilian populations is becoming increasingly evident. Those who use weapons of war, no matter why or how, do bear responsibility for the effects, at the very least, on those who cannot protect or defend themselves.

Some excerpts from the blog posting Agent Orange- The Shameful Legacy by Phillippe Ha-Vinh

Between Washington and Hanoi the issue of lingering impacts of dioxin contained in the Agent Orange has been a thorn in otherwise friendly ties in recent years.

“The United States and Vietnam have achieved a level of cooperation that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago” and he notes that the dioxin cleanup in Danang is “an excellent example of our ability to work together constructively to resolve war legacy issues and to build a partnership that continues to grow stronger.” The US Ambassador says also in December 2010 that “the U.S. Government since 2007 has provided $23.3 million for environmental, health, and disabilities activities in Danang in addition to other programs throughout Vietnam and in 2010 has appropriated $16.9 million to commence a $34 million project to remove dioxin from the soil in Danang” (end of quotation).

But as an impartial observer I can say that, in fact, in one hand, to date the US government has always denied his direct legal responsibility for the birth defects of three generations of Vietnamese and in an other hand, indeed, notwithstanding the moral responsibility of the USA, Vietnamese government has never to date sought a compensation or a reimbursement by the USA of its allowance to its citizens suffering from Agent Orange consequences. In fact it has been a pragmatic politic between the two nations of non direct individual compensation of Agent Orange pollution pledged on bilateral trade agreements and assistance in environmental remediation.

But the reality is that this is the third Vietnamese generation that has been victim of the defoliant’s dioxin, the agent being held for responsible for the country high level of genetic defects….

…A Japanese study showed that Vietnam’s areas spread with the chemical defoliant undergo three fold more mental disabilities prevalence than those where no spraying took place. US government pledged only 6 Million Dollars so far (in 2009) for the victims of Agent Orange which seems like a drop in the sea with regard to the needs attached to three generations of disabled. The United State department’s money along with the New York-based Ford Foundation philanthropy aids helped to purify the polluted soils in Da Nang which was the former location of the big US military base where the Agent Orange was stored by the Americans and whose airport was the busiest airport in the world during the Vietnam War (reaching an average of 2,595 air traffic operations daily). But nothing was done to address the issue of the Vietnamese government’s spending to give monthly compensation allowances to the disabled, for a lack of scientific proof of causality between the polluted soil and the diseases striking the population. USA recognize the lethal potential of dioxin pollution (and so agree to clean it up) but do not recognize the direct and exclusive causality link with the deaths or the disabled (and so denies to their family the legitimacy to a lawsuit)! …..

Related publications

(These were found through search engines. For more comprehensive information, it would be best to check for books and articles through a public or academic library. Some excellent starting points for articles would be Academic Search Premier, Infotrac, LexisNexis Academic.  
And remember…don’t hesitate to ask a reference librarian for assistance in finding books and searching for articles!!)


And on a somewhat related note….

More Harm than Good? The Role of Aid in Modern Conflict (The Humanitarian)

February 29, 2012 Posted by | environmental health | , | 1 Comment


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