Members of the Army Chemical Corps (ACC) constitute the largest cohort of Vietnam veterans exposed directly to the herbicides and TCDD, and preliminary studies on this cohort have demonstrated increased TCDD concentrations in ACC veterans who reported spraying herbicides as part of their duties. Some research on the health effects in this population has been and is being conducted. The committee recommends continued and expanded long-term study of this cohort.
Veterans have raised concerns about glioblastomas and possibly astrocytomas. The committee considers those tumors worthy of further investigation despite previous evidence of no association. They are extremely rare tumors, and investigating them in epidemiologic studies is difficult. Recording or monitoring trends in those tumors, as well as other diseases of aging, in Vietnam veterans could be useful for indicating which diseases might warrant further study.
The committee is aware that an assessment of herbicide exposure of Vietnam veterans is nearing completion. That assessment should provide more accurate and precise data on the potential exposure of individuals to herbicides sprayed in Vietnam, and the data could be used in epidemiologic studies to increase their power to detect health effects associated with exposure to the herbicides in Vietnam. In light of the anticipated availability of this database, it is even more important to continue research into the health effects of the herbicides in Vietnam veterans themselves, making use of this potentially valuable tool. The federal government should consider the actions that might best facilitate such research and ensure the scientific validity of any such studies of Vietnam veterans.
Another population that has been understudied is the Vietnamese. Anecdotal evidence and studies published in non-English-language journals suggest an array of long-term health effects that are potentially related to the chemicals used by US troops in Vietnam. Although collaborative research by scientists in the two countries presents challenges, such research has the potential to fill a number of gaps in our understanding of the long-term health consequences of exposures to TCDD and herbicides used in Vietnam. The committee supports steps that would continue development of collaborative programs of research. The possibility of using the newly established exposure database for assessing exposures of the Vietnamese also warrants consideration.