IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Statement

APRIL 20, 2001

No. 01-05 
301 585-4000
Contact: Jim Greene


VVA SAYS AGENT ORANGE LINK TO CHILDHOOD CANCER SHOWS NEED FOR STUDIES OF VIETNAM VETERANS AND THEIR OFFSPRING



Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) National President George C. Duggins has called on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to fund additional Agent Orange research based on a report released today by the National Academy of Sciences.  The report found an association between chemicals used during the war and the development of a particularly virulent form of leukemia in veterans’ children.

The study, sponsored by the VA and conducted by NAS’ Institute of Medicine (IOM), concluded there is new evidence of an association with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) in veterans’ children.  He noted that no large-scale epidemiological studies of Vietnam veterans have been done.  However, this suggested link may provide the impetus to the VA to conduct such studies.

Duggins urged the President and VA Secretary Anthony J. Principi to seek authority to care for children of Vietnam veterans who have AML or other diseases, that may become associated with service in Vietnam. Duggins also said this finding should provide the impetus for the VA to fund a large-scale study or series of epidemiological studies of Vietnam veterans and their offspring.  

Duggins emphasized that today’s findings were based on a review of current literature including two recent major studies that supported an association between Agent Orange and AML.  But, he noted that both studies lacked the direct measures of exposure, relying mostly on civilians who were exposed to herbicides on the job or in industrial accidents.

The IOM  Committee also noted the limitations of  today’s evaluation and called for additional epidemiological studies of Vietnam veterans and their offspring “to shed more light on the issue.”

Duggins said that he was gratified that the report reaffirmed earlier findings that showed a link between exposure and the development of soft-tissue sarcoma, non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, and chloracne in veterans.  The report also reaffirmed and strengthened the conclusion of an association between Type II diabetes and veterans’ service in Vietnam.

The Secretary, Duggins said, should move quickly to eliminate the arbitrary 30-year limit on diseases that are already deemed to be connected presumptively to Agent Orange and other toxins used in Vietnam, as the committee’s report flatly stated that there is no scientific basis whatsoever for an upper limit on manifested diseases or conditions.

Duggins concluded that this report is a small step in the right direction.  But he stressed that additional scientific studies are needed to determine the connection between Agent Orange, other toxins, and numerous diseases that veterans believe are due to service in Vietnam.

“For the President and the Congress not to mandate and fund additional epidemiological studies is tantamount to silence and inaction in the face of gross injustice.  How many babies and how many veterans have to die before the nation seriously addresses this problem?”

Agent Orange was one of the many toxic chemicals used by the United States in Vietnam. The chemical compounds considered as herbicide agents in Vietnam include 2,4-D; 2,4,5,-T and its contaminant TCDD (or dioxin); cacodylic acid and picloram.   In 1970 the U.S. military suspended the use of Agent Orange and halted all herbicide spraying in Vietnam after reports concluded that one of the primary chemicals used in Agent Orange could cause birth defects in laboratory animals. 

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Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families.  VVA's founding principle is 
"Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another."   

 

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