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Parkinson's Disease Among Veterans

By July 30, 2009

War is hell. Among its fiendish productions are chemical weapons. While the ancients used concoctions like ‘Greek fire’ we moderns use a toxic brew of industrial herb- and ‘pest’-ticides to do everything from kill the enemy to clear whole forests. During the Vietnam War (which occurred most in the 1960s and early 70s) the US military sprayed herbicides over large swathes of Vietnam to strip the thick jungle canopy that could hide the enemy. Mixtures of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T), collectively called Agent Orange, were the main herbicides used. Agent Orange also contained a very toxic form of dioxin. We know from studies of the effects of these chemical toxins in animals that they can cause a range of diseases including signs of PD. Now the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine has released its biannual report that evaluates all available new evidence on the issue of Agent Orange health effects in Viet Nam Vets. The Institute of Medicine now believes that there is suggestive evidence between exposure to Agent Orange and Parkinson’s disease. Presumably the Institute was able to spot the association this time around because PD is largely a disease of the aged and Viet Name Vets are getting old. Many of them are exhibiting signs of PD or have PD-though exact numbers are hard to come by. What is significant here is that the Institute finally recognizes that exposure of vets to agent orange and similar chemicals during the Viet Name war may have contributed to onset of PD in many vets. If you are a Viet Name vet you should speak to you doctor about your exposure to Agent Orange (if it occurred) so that you and she can identify signs of an emerging PD if and when they occur. There is no rule that says you MUST get PD if you were exposed to Agent Orange. Its all a matter of increased chance or odds. Exposure increases those odds.
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