A study of airmen exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War revealed links between the herbicide and some ailments such as diabetes, but no relationship with cancer, the Air Force said Friday.
The Air Force said its report, the fourth on Agent Orange and its dioxin contaminant, was the first large-scale scientific study to accurately measure the effects of the defoliant on health.
It comes two months after Congress voted unanimously to award permanent disability benefits to Vietnam War veterans suffering from two types of cancer they claim resulted from Agent Orange exposure--non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma and soft-tissue sarcoma.
The Air Force said it compared 866 airmen who sprayed Agent Orange--known as the Ranch Hand group--with 804 veterans with less exposure to the herbicide and lower levels of dioxin in their blood.
The study, conducted at the Armstrong Laboratory of Brooks Air Force Base in Texas, said there was “no evidence of a relationship between dioxin and cancer of any kind, liver disease, heart disease, kidney disease, immune system disorders, psychological abnormalities or nervous system disease.”
But it said increased dioxin corresponded to increases in diabetes, body fat, non-cancerous growths, cholesterol and white blood cell counts.
“These results suggest that dioxin may affect levels of blood sugar and fat and act as an irritant to the body,” it said.
It cautioned that the results should not be applied directly to all Vietnam veterans because most had less exposure to dioxin than members of the Ranch Hand group.
Another report, on dioxin’s effect on fertility and reproductivity, will be completed this summer, the Air Force said.
Agent Orange was sprayed by U.S. troops in Vietnam to remove jungle cover. Many veterans contend it is responsible for cancers, birth defects in their children and other ailments.
Congress has commissioned the National Academy of Sciences to conduct studies on possible links between Agent Orange and various diseases. Another study by the Centers for Disease Control was canceled in 1987, reportedly as a result of a White House strategy to deny federal liability in toxic exposure cases.