to ask NAS to conduct updates every 2 years for 10 years from the date of the first report to review newly available literature and draw conclusions from the overall evidence.
In response to the first request, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) convened a committee, whose conclusions IOM published in 1994 in Veterans and Agent Orange: Health Effects of Herbicides Used in Vietnam (VAO). The work of later committees resulted in the publication of biennial updates (Update 1996, Update 1998, Update 2000, Update 2002, and Update 2004) and of focused reports on the scientific evidence regarding type 2 diabetes, acute myeloid leukemia in children, and the latent period for respiratory cancer.
Enacted in 2002, PL 107-103, the Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act of 2001, mandated that the VAO biennial updates continue through 2014. Update 2006, Update 2008, and Update 2010 were published under that legislation. The current update presents this committee’s review of peer-reviewed scientific reports concerning associations between health outcomes and exposure to TCDD and other chemicals in the herbicides used in Vietnam that were published in October 2010–September 2012 and the committee’s integration of this information with the previously established evidence database.
In accordance with PL 102-4 and PL 107-103, the Committee to Review the Health Effects in Vietnam Veterans of Exposure to Herbicides (Ninth Biennial Update) was asked to “determine (to the extent that available scientific data permit meaningful determinations)” the following regarding associations between specific health outcomes and exposure to TCDD and other chemicals in herbicides used by the military in Vietnam:
A) whether a statistical association with herbicide exposure exists, taking into account the strength of the scientific evidence and the appropriateness of the statistical and epidemiological methods used to detect the association;
B) the increased risk of disease among those exposed to herbicides during service in the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam era; and
C) whether there exists a plausible biological mechanism or other evidence of a causal relationship between herbicide exposure and the disease. [PL 102-4, Section 3 (d)]
Judicial history and the congressional mandate, quoted above, dictated that the committee’s statement of task is framed in terms of “association” between exposure and health outcomes. This and all prior committees fully recognized that an association does not establish a causal relationship and that the rigor of the evidentiary database needed to support a finding of statistical association is