Agent Orange linked to heart disease, Parkinson's

WASHINGTON Fri Jul 24, 2009 4:20pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Agent Orange, used by U.S. forces to strip Vietnamese and Cambodian jungles during the Vietnam War, may raise the risk of heart disease and Parkinson's disease, U.S. health advisers said on Friday.

But the evidence is only limited and far from definitive, the Institute of Medicine panel said.

"The report strongly recommends that studies examining the relationship between Parkinson's incidence and exposures in the veteran population be performed," the institute, an independent academy that guides federal policy, said in a statement.

The findings add to a growing list of conditions that could be linked to the defoliants, including leukemia, prostate cancer, type II diabetes and birth defects in the children of the veterans exposed.

The herbicides, nicknamed "Agent Orange" from the orange stripe on the barrels in which they were stored, include chemicals such as 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid.

Between 1962 and 1971, an estimated 20 million gallons (75 million liters) of these chemicals were used to strip Vietnam's thick forests to make bombing easier.

Veterans exposed to the chemicals have complained for years about a variety of health problems, and in the late 1970s the government started to investigate them systematically. Each finding brings veterans one step closer to getting government-paid medical services for these conditions.

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand the dismissal of lawsuits by Vietnamese nationals and U.S. veterans against Dow Chemical Co, Monsanto Co and other chemical makers over the use of Agent Orange .

In 1984, seven chemical companies, including Dow and Monsanto, agreed to a $180 million settlement with veterans.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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