August 13, 2010 - There are a growing number of veteran-parents connecting their exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam with illnesses afflicting their children. Agent Orange is a herbicide and defoliant used in Vietnam that contains dioxin, the deadliest ingredient in the mix. Between 1962 and 1971 The Air Force sprayed 11 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam. Dioxin exposure can cause:
The 1991 Agent Orange Act provided that all Vietnam veterans are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange. Further, all diseases identified by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs as being caused by exposure to the herbicide are presumed service-related. Veterans with service-related disabilities can collect disability compensation.
Agent Orange got into the ground, then the water, and in the troops' food. 40 years after the war, the damage Agent Orange caused is still present. Or maybe it isn't. C. Bernie Good is Chief of the Section on General Internal Medicine at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Pittsburgh Healthcare System. Good believes there is no tenable link between men exposed to dioxin and the birth defects present in their children.
According to Good, 2.3% of all babies suffer birth defects. Approximately 2.6 million men served in Vietnam, which statistically translates to between 52,000 to 78,000 babies with birth defects, without exposure to Agent Orange. Experts on Agent Orange exposure, while acknowledging the health risks for veterans exposed to the herbicide, say there is a much weaker link between that exposure and the veterans' children. Patterns in health problems of children of exposed veterans, however, continue to develop.
Because of the cost and the large amount of blood required to perform the test, the VA does not screen for dioxin. If the current pattern holds, there should be many more children of exposed veterans born with birth defects or developing strange cancers at young ages. Hopefully there will be some breakthrough before that happens.
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