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EXPOSURE LINKED TO GRAVES’ DISEASE IN VIETNAM VETERANS, UB STUDY FINDS.” States
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involvement in Vietnam left tangible, long term impacts that Americans should
be ashamed of. These crippling and fatal ailments allowed the world to see the horrific
affects that Agent Orange has caused. It changed the attitudes of a generation,
where many became skeptical and cynical of the government’s choices in the
Vietnam war. The lack of awareness and denial pertaining to Agent Orange was a
moral outrage. It took the lives of innocent children and caused diseases in
veterans that couldn’t be cured. The US government is to blame for affecting hundreds
of thousands of innocent lives in the Vietnam War.
The most shocking case study of Agent Orange
exposure has been linked to the deadliest form of prostate cancer. Dr. Mark
Garzotto the author of the current study but also a physician at the Portland
Veterans Administration Medical center is investigating the deadliest form of
prostate cancer. Dr. Garzotto and his colleges studied more than 2,700 US
veterans that had recently undergone a prostate biopsy. Nine-hundred of those
patients (exactly 33%) were diagnosed with prostate cancer (Jaslow). Out of the
900, 459 patients had a more aggressive, high grade disease of prostate cancer.
Researchers determined exposure to Agent Orange was linked to a 52% increase in
prostate cancer, with a 75% increase in the deadliest forms of prostate cancer (Jaslow).
However, Dr. David B. Samadi (a urologist and chief of robotics with minimal
invasive surgery experience at the Icahn School of Medicine) concluded that “the
duration of your exposure can have a huge correlation with the chance of
developing prostate cancer” (qtd. in Jaslow). Extensive amounts of time can “change
the DNA and send a cell into a different cycle, making it a cancer cell” according
to Dr. Samadi (qtd. in Jaslow). More so, another study conducted by the UC
Davis Center, complied a large group of males in their 60s. These men were
tested on a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test, that provided a powerful way
to diagnose and track prostate cancer early (Jaslow). The men were separated
into two groups: one group was exposed to Agent Orange while the other group
was not exposed to Agent Orange between the years of 1961 and 1971. This study
went under a medical evaluation between 1998 and 2006 and revealed that twice
as many men exposed to Agent Orange were identified with prostate cancer (Jaslow). This study helped diagnose those affected by
Agent Orange two-and-half years earlier and were nearly four times more likely
to present with metastatic disease (advanced cancer).
With 20% of the Vietnam’s surface covered in Agent Orange, a disease that
effects the thyroid has affected 200,000 vets who served in the Vietnam War (Tucker).
This disease is known as Graves’ disease which is an autoimmune problem that
causes the thyroid gland to produce too much of the thyroid hormone. The gland
releases the hormone T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine) that controls the
body’s metabolism and is critical when regulating weight, mood, and
physical/mental energy levels (Agent Orange Exposure). The dioxin in Agent
Orange has similar chemical properties that are like the thyroid hormones: it
binds with the cells in the body’s immune system that can cause abnormal
growths. Ultimately this disease is the underlying cause for hyperthyroidism
(Tucker). A study was conducted at the
University of Buffalo testing exposed Veterans (23,939) and the non-exposed
veterans (200,109) that compared “the frequency of diagnosis of thyroid cancer,
nodules, hypothyroidism, and Graves’ disease between the two groups” (Agent
Orange Exposure). Results revealed that there was no difference in the
prevalence of thyroid nodules or cancers between the two groups. But, the
author of this study, Ajay Varanasi MD (an endocrinology fellow in the UB
Department of Medicine) found that Graves’ disease had been three times more
prevalent in the exposed group (Agent Orange Exposure). If left untreated it
can cause serious problems to the body: it can weaken the bones, cause heart damage,
create eye problems, or the development of a rare condition can occur within the
thyroid that can become life threatening (Palazzo). Americans and the
Vietnamese suffered greatly from this disease, however it wasn’t the worst
disease that has been connected to Agent Orange.
Bifida is a known birth defect in the offspring of the parents who have been exposed
to Agent Orange during the Vietnam war. Spina bifida is a condition where the neural tube (a hollow structure where
the brain and spinal cord form) of
a fetus fails to develop normally into the brain, the spinal cord, and the
enveloping tissues. The incomplete development leads to an opening or
malformation in the spine, but depending on the location, size, and exposure of
the malformation it can affect the severity of the condition. Victims of spina bifida
typically have nerve damage, paralysis, and mental disabilities (Chou). In the 1980s, the CDC (US
Centre for Disease Control) conducted a study on birth defects analyzing the
EOI (Exposure Opportunity Index) based on the interview data. The study found
that the risk of spina bifida was significantly associated with the exposure of
Agent Orange. Two studies, the Ranch Hand study and the CDC Vietnam experience
study, proved that those exposed had an elevated risk for fathering children
with spina bifida. In 2006 Ngo, Taylor, and Roberts reviewed 22 studies with
data from the US, the Australians, the Vietnamese veterans, and the sprayed
civilians. (38). Results showed that the victims exposed to Agent Orange were
twice as likely to have a child with birth defects compared to those who were
unexposed. America’s choice to use such devastating chemicals has now impacted the
lives of their children but also the Vietnamese children. Parents watch their
child live in agony and relentless pain because of the US governments choices:
because of the government these children can no longer live a normal life.
43,332,640 liters of Agent Orange sprayed in total during 1965-1971, no one
knew what entailed next. By 1974, the
second herbicide committee formed by the US National Academy of Sciences and
the US Congress, confirmed the link between Chloracne and Agent Orange Exposure
(Chou). Chloracne can be viewed as both a toxic outcome from exposure to TCDD and
as a clinical marker (a measure of effect on a specific
treatment that may correlate with a real clinical endpoint (marker) but does not necessarily have a
guaranteed relationship) for TCDD exposure. It’s a rare skin condition that
has an eruption of blackheads, fluid filled cysts, nodules (a growth of abnormal tissue), and dark body hair
(Public health). Mild cases of Chloracne begin with blackheads that are limited
to an area around the eyes, that extend along the temples and to the ears; in severe cases, blackheads appear in
other places like the cheek bone area, along the arms, and behind the ears. As the severity of this condition can lead to
an abundant of open sores and permanent scars. This condition persists
for a lifetime and currently has no cure and is highly resistant to any
treatment. A study was conducted on 2,192 employees of Dow Chemical and Michigan
Division, where nearly 16% of the workers had the condition of Chloracne.
Findings concluded that there was a significant difference in age at time of exposure (some men
went into the war at 18 compared to others who were drafted at an older age) that
showed a higher risk of TCCD exposure. Another large study was conducted on 204
workers of the Monsanto Company plant that produced half of the makeup of Agent
Orange, 2,4,5-T. Those workers had more than 53% of clinical evidence of
persistent Chloracne. Another study examined workers 20 to 30 years after
initial exposure of making 2,4,5-T, where 204 have been exposed, 163 have not
been exposed, and 51 of questionable exposure. Out of the 204 exposed, 86%
developed chloracne at some time after exposure, but 53% still had chloracne on
examination 20 to 30 years post exposure. But Chloracne was the least of the
worries for Agent Orange victims.
is made up of a 50/50 mixture of two individual herbicides known as 2,4-D (dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) and 2,4,5-T (trichlorophenoxyacetic
acid). But due to a deliberately
accelerated production, Agent Orange was unintentionally contaminated with a
dioxin known as 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD), which is “known to be a human
carcinogen” (Chlorine Gone Wild). With TCDD being the most toxic of
dioxins and dioxin-like compounds, once it enters your body, it can last a very
long time due to the chemical stability and their ability to be absorbed by fat
tissue. Dioxin has a half-life in humans between 7 and 11 years (Agent Orange
Record). During this time, dioxin alters
“the intricate cellular and chemical balances involved in maintaining good
health” (Chlorine Gone Wild). An average person living in an industrialized
nation typically has 3-7 pg/g (picograms/gram) of TCDD in their blood while the
average Ranch Hand operative (Ranch Hand was the name of the Agent Orange
spraying program that sprayed target areas in Vietnam with the toxic
herbicides) has about 12.2 pg/g of dioxin in their blood. Where the higher the
pg/g, the more of an increased risk of health problems one would encounter with
1 in every 1000 chances of developing serious health risks (White).
began its involvement in Vietnam a decade before ground troops put their boots
on the ground. In 1950, President Truman increased the amount of financial and
military assistance to the French forces fighting in Vietnam due to the
splitting of this nation (North and South Vietnam) (Role of the United States).
Eventually the divisions in Vietnam escalated, causing American forces to send
ground troops in 1965. Those ground
troops were there to stop the spread of communism. America feared that the Domino Theory would come into
play in Southeast Asia, where if one country fell to communism than the rest of
the countries would fall too. A part of the military’s effort in Vietnam involved
overcoming the countries jungle-filled terrain. At first, Malathion (an
insecticide) was the only chemical that was sprayed adjacent to the South
Vietnamese cities and the 14 bases in Vietnam to help get rid of the mosquitos
and bugs (Young). But as tensions grew, the use of six different herbicides was
commenced (Agent pink, Agent blue, Agent green, Agent purple, and Agent white).
However, before these herbicides were
used as a chemical weapon, they were first used to destroy the forest and the crops;
the key component of Agent Orange, 2,4-D dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, began as a weed killer in 1945, but
later turned into Agent Orange (Frey 2). Even scientists had no knowledge or
experience with Agent Orange or the five other herbicides. Seven corporations (Dow
Chemical, Monsanto, Diamond Shamrock, Hercules, T.H. Agriculture &
Nutrition, Thompson Chemicals, and Uniroyal) made these chemical herbicides as demands
for this source grew many production facilities that were open for 24 hours
during the Vietnam war (Frey). Such chemicals were now used as a military
strategy to clear ground cover where the Vietcong were hidden. These chemicals
were sprayed from 1961 to 1971: in
1961-1962 agents pink, green, and purple were the most common, between
1962-1971 agent blue was used, and between 1965-1971 agent white and orange were
used (Frey 3). Agent Orange’s chemical makeup caused an outbreak that lead the Americans
to question the governments choices.
Agent Orange began as a weed killer but later
turned into the world’s deadliest chemical that proved to be the most
coldblooded decision the American government has made as they approved the use
and spraying of Agent Orange in Vietnam. The victims of this mass chemical warfare had come
face to face with reality: according to one Vietnamese citizen “Vietnam is now
a country at peace […] but the victims of Agent Orange will never live in
peace” (qtd. in Tuyet and Johansson). With
Agent Orange being one of the deadliest toxins used in the Vietnam war, its effects
continued as years passed against Vietnamese soldiers, American soldiers, and
their children. Extensive studies have now persuasively linked America’s vast
use of Agent Orange to a witches’ brew of crippling and fatal ailments, including
disabling skin diseases, horrendous birth defects, an increased risk for Graves’
disease, and the deadliest form of prostate cancer.