Agent Orange Redux

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is backing off its conclusion last year that exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War causes a type of leukemia in veterans' kids. The IOM is part of the independent National Academy of Sciences and often studies scientific issues that have policy implications at the request of government agencies. The IOM Agent Orange committee revised its conclusion because it turns out that an Australian study upon it strongly relied in reaching its initial findings is deeply flawed. Previous IOM reports on Agent Orange have concluded that sufficient evidence exists to link soft tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease, and chloracne with exposure. The IOM has also found that there is "limited or suggestive" evidence to show an association with exposure and a neurological disorder in veterans and with the congenital birth defect spina bifida in veterans' children

Many veterans groups are lobbying for compensation for veterans, whom they believe have been harmed by Agent Orange. However, some epidemiologists and other analysts believe that the IOM is not relying on science, but on politics to reach its conclusions about the alleged harms caused by Agent Orange. This latest finding will muddy the waters on this already murky issue.

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