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November 30, 1979

Symptoms in Vietnam Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange

Author Affiliations

Highland Park, III

JAMA. 1979;242(22):2391. doi:10.1001/jama.1979.03300220011002

To the Editor.—  Agent Orange is an herbicide containing equal parts of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid. It was used extensively in Vietnam as a defoliant. A toxic contaminant is dioxin, 2,3,7,8 tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin.A ten-month study of 78 Vietnam veterans who claimed exposure to Agent Orange yielded many findings: 85% of the men experienced a rash that was resistant to treatment. Using immunofluorescence in one patient, a skin biopsy specimen showed intraepithelial and intercellular IgA, IgG, and IgM. In 53% of the patients, the rash was aggravated by sunlight.Joint pain occurred in 71%, stiffness in 59%, and swelling in 45%. Hypersomnolence occurred in 44% of the men and extreme fatigue in 80%. Sinus bradycardia and premature ventricular contractions were not infrequent.Persistent neurological complaints were tingling (55%), numbness (60%), dizziness (69%), headache (35%), and autonomic dyscontrol (18%). Severe psychiatric manifestations were depression (73%), suicidal attempts (8%), and