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Agent Orange: hue and cry.

Agent Orange: Hue and Cry

Reagan Administration officials "obstructed" an Agent Orange exposure study in Vietnam veterans, the House Committee on Government Operations charges in a report issued last week.

In 1987, top White House officials canceled plans for a study of Agent Orange exposures by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In justifying the move, they noted that a panel of federal officials and scientists had concluded that military records could not establish a veteran's contact with the herbicide -- a jungle conflict. But last week's report alleges that the administration canceled the study because the administration "had secretly taken a legal position to resist demands to compensate victims of Agent Orange exposure." The report say it's possible to assess Agent Orange exposures by studying troop movements.

The committee recommends that Congress order the Department of Defense to develop ways of estimating Agent Orange exposure. It further suggests that the federal government finance an independent study of Agent Orange exposures and health problems in Vietnam veterans.

Earlier this year, CDC did complete a separate study of selected cancers in Vietnam-era veterans (SN: 4/14/90, p.236). It found an increased risk of a rare cancer in these veterans, but no link with Agent Orange, which contains dioxin, an animal carcinogen.

The congressional report says that the study failed to find a connection between the herbicide and cancer because it relied on flawed exposure estimates, since the administration had canceled the earlier effort to establish a reliable index of exposures. Not all committee members agreed. Six of the 15 Republicans issued a dissenting view labeling the report "an ideological assault on a Republican White House."
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Title Annotation:House Government Operations Committee charges Reagan Administration obstruction to exposure study
Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 18, 1990
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