Air Force: Agent Orange linked to diabetes

July 8, 2005 at 4:47 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 8 (UPI) -- The service released the results of physical examinations conducted in 2002 of 1,951 veterans who were exposed to dioxin when the United States military used nearly 19 million gallons of herbicide to clear vegetation in Vietnam between 1962 and 1971. Agent Orange was among the herbicides used.

According to the Air Force's "Ranch Hand" study which begin in 1982, veterans with the highest levels of dioxin in the blood showed a 166 percent increase in in diabetes requiring insulin.

"As dioxin levels increase, not only are the presence and severity of adult-onset diabetes increased, but the time to onset of the disease is decreased," the Air Force study states.

The study showed no link between Agent Orange exposure and cancer.

"At the end of the 20 years of follow-up, Ranch Hand pilots and ground crews as a group exhibited no statistically significant increase in the risk of cancer relative to comparisons," the Air Force study said.

In fact, the study shows that enlisted ground crews - the group with the highest dioxin levels in their blood - exhibited a 14 percent decreased risk of cancer.

The Institute of Medicine in previous studies found an association between Agent Orange and soft-tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin disease and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Vietnam veterans filed a major class action lawsuit in 1979 against herbicide manufacturers. It was settled out of court in 1984 and created the Agent Orange Settlement Fund, which paid out $200 million.

The Air Force study also did not show a "significant increase" in heart disease. Blood tests of those with the highest levels of dioxin showed liver function problems and elevated blood lipids. The health effects of those conditions are not clear, according to the study.

There was also an increase of acne among enlisted ground crews who served in Southeast Asia.

The report will be reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences, and when that review is complete the secretary of veterans affairs may request disability compensation and health care.

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