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Agent Orange as a Cause of Lung Cancer

The term, "Agent Orange", was used as a code name that referred to an herbicide that was produced and used for military purposes during the Vietnam War. It was tested and used during the period from 1961 until 1971. It has been estimated that approximately 19 million gallons of the product was used during the war.

The herbicide was sprayed on dense terrain in Vietnam to reduce shrubbery and other foliage that the enemy used to hide. Agent Orange was a blend of chemicals that include 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T), and small amounts of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin. Additionally, it contained diesel fuel or kerosene. It was applied through use of vehicles, aircraft, or by hand.

There were concerns about the use of Agent Orange early on since it contains dioxin or TCDD. TCDD is a type of dioxin that is related to toxic chemicals such as PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) and dibenzofurans. TCDD in particular has shown to cause fatal diseases in lab tests with animals; therefore, it has caused concern in regard to human effects.

The Link Between Agent Orange and Lung Cancer

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in conjunction with other governmental agencies have carried out studies in regards to Agent Orange exposure and its effects on veterans. The agency acknowledges the fact that there is a correlation between the chemical and some respiratory cancers such as bronchus, larynx, lung, trachea, and other diseases.

In particular, a report published by The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 1993 titled, Veterans and Agent Orange: Health Effects of Herbicides Used in Vietnam, states there is data that suggests a correlation between exposure to the chemical herbicides 2,4-D; 2,4,5-T, TCDD, picloram and cacodylic acid, and cancers of the respiratory system. The NAS also disclosed that the relationship between dioxin and respiratory cancer development was evident only in cases where exposure to the chemicals was in high concentrations and for extended periods of time.

According to information posted on The American Cancer Society website, research conducted in regards to Vietnam veterans and development of respiratory cancers have not resulted in data that shows an increase in the amount of veteran respiratory cancer cases; although, research gathered by the U.S. Air Force in a study called The Ranch Hand Study, did find a correlation between exposure and an increase in lung cancer in veterans. The results of this study were based on 10 deaths and there was a high rate of smoking among the group studied.

Studies of industrial accidents in California and Germany showed an increase in respiratory cancer incidence. Collectively the research data shows low probability of an increase in lung cancer except in cases where dioxin exposure is involved.

Other Diseases and Agent Orange

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs acknowledges that there are a number of various Agent Orange-related conditions aside from lung cancer. Some of these diseases include the following: (A disease must be at least 10% disabling to the veteran to receive compensation by law.)

  • respiratory cancers, including lung cancer
  • acute and sub acute peripheral neuropathy
  • chloracne
  • chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • diabetes mellitus (type II)
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • multiple myeloma
  • non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • porphyria cutanea tarda
  • prostate cancer
  • soft-tissue sarcoma

Regulation and Court Decisions

The home use of Agent Orange was regulated in 1971 by the U.S. Surgeon General due to its hazardous effects. All applications of the chemical were halted in Vietnam.

In 1991, the Agent Orange Act of 1991 was signed into law to help resolve issues regarding Vietnam veterans and exposure to Agent Orange. The three primary factors of the bill, H.R. 556, include the following:

  • To provide a scientific basis for deciding whether or not to continue further research regarding the effects of herbicide exposure.
  • To establish procedures for determining whether or not certain diseases are associated to Agent Orange exposure. The NAS would be used to research evidence in regards to possible health effects from Agent Orange used in Vietnam.
  • To systematize all previous decisions made relative to herbicides and assumptions made in regard to Vietnam service and exposure.

Judge Jack Weinstein ruled in 2004 that companies that manufactured Agent Orange would be exempt from legal liability due to their roles as government contractors, and the fact that they followed military guidelines. contractor and the fact that they followed military guidelines. The Military Contractors Doctrine protects these companies from legal action. In 2005, an appeal was filed on behalf of Vietnam veterans. In 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York affirmed the original protection by The Military Contractors Doctrine. Since that ruling, veterans and their families cannot sue companies that manufactured Agent Orange used in the Vietnam War. In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the ruling of the 2008 decision.

Help for Veterans Who Were Exposed to Agent Orange

Were you exposed to Agent Orange? Do you have lung cancer? You may be eligible for compensation. Call us at 1-800-988-9729 today.

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Veterans and Lung Cancer
»Screening for Lung Cancer
»Diagnosis of Lung Cancer