WASHINGTON--In an update of its 1994 report, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), of the National Academy of Sciences, has confirmed its original findings of an association between herbicides used in the Vietnam War and various health problems, namely, soft tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease, and chloracne.
The update also reported limited or suggestive epidemiological evidence for three newly discovered associations: a higher rate of spina bifida in children born to Vietnam vets, compared with non-vets, and a higher incidence of transient peripheral neuropathy and por-phyria cutanea tarda in people exposed to herbicides or dioxin.
Between 1962 and 1970, US soldiers sprayed almost 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other defoliants over 3.6 million acres in Vietnam. After studies linked Agent Orange to birth defects in laboratory animals, the use of the chemical was suspended.
IOM committee chair David Tollerud, director of occupational and environmental medicine, University of Pittsburgh, said that "we still do not know the precise degree of risk from Agent Orange exposure for individual Vietnam vet-erans, but the base of research has improved."