Monday, August 18, 2014

Four decades later, following the trail of Agent Orange
Remember the Agent Orange controversy?
For 20 years after U.S. military veterans returned from Vietnam — where the notorious herbicide and similar exfoliants were used to expose bombing targets — claims that they and their children experienced side effects from this new giant step in military warfare were shunted aside for lack of scientific evidence.
It wasn't until the Agent Orange Act of 1991 that Congress took veterans' concerns seriously enough to order an independent evaluation of what toxic chemical reactions might have occurred back in the jungle. Eventually, strong links were identified between the highly potent form of dioxin used in Agent Orange and certain types of cancers, and the public spotlight moved on.
Now, as our Vietnam vets are swiftly joining the ranks of our elders, I was surprised to learn that the research begun in 1991 has quietly continued. Every two years, the Institute of Medicine — an independent advisory organization that is part of the National Academy of Science — has been publishing exhaustive updates as more is learned about the health effects of herbicide exposure.
The latest is "Update 2012," more than 1,000 pages of scientific scrutiny that adds strokes to the list of outcomes with "limited or suggestive evidence of an association" to chemical exposure.

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