Stars and Stripes
By Tom Philpott
Special to Stars and Stripes
Published: March 17, 2016
The IOM concludes that the research supports changing the strength of association to herbicide exposure for several ailments. For bladder cancer and hypothyroidism, it found “limited or suggestive” evidence of an association, an upgrade from previous “inadequate or insufficient” evidence.By August this year many more thousands of Vietnam War veterans, those suffering from bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s-like symptoms and even high blood pressure, could learn they will be eligible for Department of Veterans Affairs health benefits and disability compensation. Or perhaps not.
Difficult months of study lie ahead for a working group of senior scientists and health experts that VA Secretary Bob McDonald convened last week, following release of a 10th and final biennial review of evidence of health problems linked to Agent Orange and other herbicide exposures.
Every review in the series, going back two decades, has been conducted, as Congress mandated, by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a division of the National Academies of Sciences. Its latest review, Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2014, takes into account medical and scientific literature published from Oct. 1, 2012, through Sept. 30, 2014.
For only the second time, the IOM withdrew an earlier finding of that herbicide exposure may have caused an ailment, in this case spina bifida in children born to Vietnam veterans. For 20 years VA has used a preliminary finding of an association to grant children benefits. The IOM says it no longer believes the evidence merits retaining spina bifida in that category.
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