The children of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the war in south-east Asia may well be at greater risk of contracting leukaemia, a new study has suggested.
While Agent Orange has long been associated with the increased incidence of various conditions and birth defects, this research is the first to make a link between the defoliant and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Children who contract AML have an average life expectancy of just two years.
Last night, Anthony Principi, the US secretary for veterans affairs, called the report "very serious". He said: "I am deeply concerned about the implications for the children of veterans exposed to Agent Orange."
The research, commissioned by Congress from the Institute of Medicine, stopped short of establishing a direct link between the defoliant and AML, describing its findings instead as "limited or suggestive". But Irva Hertz-Picciotto, professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina and chair of the committee which carried out the research, said it had found a 70 per cent higher risk of AML for children whose parents served in Vietnam or Cambodia.
"We think the evidence is suggestive," she said, adding more research was required.
Rick Weidman, of the Vietnam Veterans of America group, said he was "pleased that they had recognised one additional birth defect in children born to Vietnam veterans".
Three million Americans served in Vietnam and Washington estimates about 100,000 were exposed to Agent Orange.Reuse content