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April 27, 1984

Military looks toward 1985 in ongoing defoliant study

JAMA. 1984;251(16):2067-2068. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03340400007002

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The hot topic at the moment in the ongoing Agent Orange controversy (JAMA [MEDICAL NEWS] 1979; 241:1443-1444) is recently-released preliminary data from an Air Force study.

This is a study of men who loaded and flew the aircraft that sprayed the Agent Orange defoliant during the war in Southeast Asia in the 1960s and early 1970s (JAMA [MEDICAL NEWS] 1979;242:593-597). The operation, called "Ranch Hand," was designed to deny cover and crops to opposing forces in Vietnam.

The participants are being compared with a control group matched for age, race, military specialty, and service in Vietnam. And, even as these just-released "baseline morbidity study results" are being widely discussed, the Air Force already is at work revising its health history questionnaire and physical examination formats in preparation for next year's followup studies.

All of this is against a backdrop of court proceedings beginning in May to try suits brought by