Reagan Administration Obstructed Agent Orange Study, Panel Claims

<i> From Associated Press</i>

A House committee concluded Thursday that White House officials in the Ronald Reagan Administration “controlled and obstructed” a federal study of Agent Orange exposure among Vietnam veterans.

The congressional panel said that a secret White House strategy to deny federal liability in toxic exposure cases led to the cancellation of the Centers for Disease Control study in 1987.

The report by the House Government Operations Committee bolsters arguments of two veterans’ groups, the American Legion and the Vietnam Veterans of America, which filed a lawsuit last week seeking to have the CDC resume its study of the health effects of Agent Orange exposure.


“The White House compromised the independence of the CDC and undermined the study by controlling crucial decisions and guiding the course of research, at the same time it had secretly taken a legal position to resist demands to compensate victims of Agent Orange exposure . . . “ the report said.

Agent Orange was a herbicide used to destroy ground cover during the Vietnam War. It has been blamed by veterans’ groups for 19 cancers and other health problems, including birth defects.

Congress ordered the CDC study to determine which Vietnam veterans had been exposed to Agent Orange. It was to be used as a basis for other studies.

The committee said the study should not have been canceled “because CDC did not document that exposure could not be assessed” and disregarded other methods of measuring exposure.