GTD includes hydatidiform mole or HM and choriocarcinoma. HM develops complications of pregnancy and the main factor to choriocarcinoma, which is a highly malignant cancer. HM starts during fertilization and is either complete or partial, according to histopathologic and cytogenetic criteria. In a complete HM, there is no embryo, no umbilical cord and no amniotic membranes. The chorionic villi of the trophoblastic tissues and chromosomal constitution are all abnormal.
Published and unpublished results of control studies on the increased incidence of HM and choriocarcinoma in Vietnam hospitals established the connection between maternal exposure and GTD. Many experimental studies on animals showed this connection. Agent Orange has been regarded as the main source of dioxin contamination in South Vietnam. Many studies in the past decade concluded that the dioxin levels in human tissues of those people in areas heavily sprayed with Agent Orange were at least as high as those in industrialized countries. At these levels, dioxin could affect the reproductive system. A case-control study was conducted in 1990 at the Obstetrical and Gynecological Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, the main referral maternity in South Vietnam. It involved 87 respondents, 71% of whom had complete HMs. The findings did not establish an association between an exposure to Agent Orange and the development of GTD. There was no evidence of a relationship between cancers and herbicides in either animal or human studies, except for increased risk of ovarian mesotheliomas in those exposed to the herbicides. The study estimated the cumulative exposure to Agent Orange on the basis of residence history. Those who resided in South Vietnam had significantly higher levels of dioxin in their fat tissues. The study also found that those with complete HMs also had additional risk factors. These were more previous pregnancies and histories of fewer interpreted abortions than the control group's. The respondents also had a lower family income, owned fewer consumer goods, ate fewer consumer goods, consumer fewer meat dishes and more fish dishes per week, and raised more pigs than did those in the control group. The results could suggest a link between a lower socioeconomic status and a higher dioxin intake through a greater consumption of fish. Most of the respondents raised domestic pigs, which could have account for the prevalence and spread of some parasites among humans. These could be linked to their generally poor health and mild immunodeficiency.
The list of diseases the vets were exposed to on account of Agent Orange was expanded to include three respiratory cancers of the lung, larynx and tracheas and bone marrow cancer. VA Secretary Brown said this could help resolve remaining questions about Agent Orange. The decision brought the total number of illnesses to nine.
The Supreme Court was deadlocked on the cases of two veterans who blamed their cancers on Agent Orange and wanted to recover damages. They got sick too late to partake of the $180-million damages awarded to the makers of the chemical in 1984. The non-decision encouraged other veterans who were not part of the class settlement suit to sue and for the settlement to reopen. The two veterans' attorney expressed hope that their rights would be vindicated, something that many veterans had awaited for 10 or so years. Manufacturers, Dow, Monsanto Company and other companies, tried to contact the veterans. These manufacturers also contended the illnesses reported by aging vets as related to the chemical.
In 1985, Agent Orange manufacturers conducted an out-of-court settlement of $180 million fund to indemnify Vietnam war veterans who developed diseases after exposure to Agent Orange. They, however, denied funding to those who developed illnesses after 1994. The funds also ran out in 1997. In 1998, vet Daniel Stephenson sued for damages after he developed cancer. He claimed that he was not properly represented in the earlier case. The companies' attorneys, however, warned other claimants to prove their illnesses as "more likely than not" caused by Agent Orange. They also said that the procedure would be more restrictive than the standard ones applied by VA.
Meanwhile, Rep Lane Evans provided the Department of Defense with a report finding of dioxin contamination of the soil at the Anderson Air Force Base in Yigo, Guam. Rep Evans called the Department's attention to the potential damage of Agent Orange and other herbicides to other U.S. service members in other countries. These countries were Guam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Puerto Rico Principal Assistant Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Installations and Environment Philip W. Grone said that the Department had no record on the use, storage or testing of Agents Orange, Blue or White in Guam. Grone listed 48 users of chemical herbicides at sites in and outside the United States. Rep Evans reported that almost 250,000 pounds of Agent Orange was accidentally spilled on Johnson Island in 1972. He wrote that around 1.1 million gallons of unused Agent Orange was taken to that Island from Vietnam. Roughly 49,000 gallons have leaked annually from drums at the Johnson storage site. The VA, however, consistently denied the claims of vets who served at the Johnson Island from 1971 to 1977. Still another area of concern was Korea. The Department said that some U.S. military personnel were exposed to Agent Orange and other chemical herbicides in the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Rep Evans commented that it had been more than 30 years since the use of these herbicides and that it was past the time for full and open disclosure of the hard facts.
Associated Press. Agent Orange Vets Can Sue. Deseret News. (Deseret News Publishers Company, June 10, 2003)
Catholic New Times. Vets Rip Feds Over Agent Orange. (Catholic New Times, Inc. December 18, 2005)
Dyhouse, Tim. Leukemia Linked to Agent Orange. VFW Magazine.(Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, March 2003)