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
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
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.
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.