as TCDD—a contaminant of 2,4,5-T. Thousands of scientific studies have since been conducted, numerous government hearings have been held, and veterans organizations have pressed for conclusive answers, but the question of the health effects of herbicide exposure in Vietnam remains shrouded in controversy and mistrust. Indeed some veterans organizations, researchers, and public interest organizations remain skeptical that the issue has received full and impartial consideration by the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA; formerly the Veterans Administration) and other federal agencies.

Faced with this lingering uncertainty and demands that the concerns of veterans be adequately addressed, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 102-4, the ''Agent Orange Act of 1991." This legislation directed the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to request that the National Academy of Sciences conduct a comprehensive review and evaluation of available scientific and medical information regarding the health effects of exposure to Agent Orange, other herbicides used in Vietnam, and their components, including dioxin.

In February 1992, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences signed an agreement with the DVA to review and summarize the strength of the scientific evidence concerning the association between herbicide exposure during Vietnam service and each disease or condition suspected to be associated with such exposure. The IOM was also asked to make recommendations concerning the need, if any, for additional scientific studies to resolve areas of continuing scientific uncertainty and to comment on four particular programs mandated in Public Law 102-4.

To carry out the study, the IOM established the Committee to Review the Health Effects in Vietnam Veterans of Exposure to Herbicides. In conducting its study, the committee operated independently of the DVA and other government agencies. The committee was not asked to and did not make judgments regarding specific cases in which individual Vietnam veterans have claimed injury from herbicide exposure; this was not part of its congressional charge. Rather, the study provides scientific information for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to consider as the DVA exercises its responsibilities to Vietnam veterans.


The framework for this report reflects the size and complexity of the committee's task. The committee felt that an evaluation of the health effects of exposure to herbicides in Vietnam veterans would not be complete without a historical review of the Agent Orange controversy. The report begins in Chapter 2 by tracing more than two decades of public concern about the military use of herbicides during the war in Vietnam, in addition to public concern over various environmental and occupational exposures to

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