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May 27, 1983

More questions, not answers, emerge from Agent Orange studies

JAMA. 1983;249(20):2743-2746. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03330440003001

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Exploration of the Agent Orange question, much like the war in Southeast Asia that spawned it, plods on in an atmosphere of unrealized expectations and unrelenting controversy.

Essentially, the question is whether Agent Orange, a defoliant used by the United States to deny cover and crops to opposing forces in the Vietnam War, is responsible for any human health problems (JAMA [Medical News] 1980;243:2375-2379 and 1979;242:593-597, 241: 1443-1444).

The two latest studies to be reported focused on possible Agent Orange-associated birth defects among veterans' offspring. Results obtained in the two studies were diametrically opposed, however.

Additional recent developments include criticism (including some from the General Accounting Office) of seemingly ineffectual Veterans Administration (VA) attempts to address the Agent Orange health question, with the result that the VA is transferring a project to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Atlanta, and allegations that several chemical companies withheld information about potential health