Disturbing Long-Term Health Impacts From The Vietnam War

Agent Orange Has Been Linked to Hormonal Disruptions In 2021, hypothyroidism was added to the list of presumptive diseases linked to Agent Orange exposure that can… Aisha Abdullah - April 20, 2023

Agent Orange Has Been Linked to Hormonal Disruptions

In 2021, hypothyroidism was added to the list of presumptive diseases linked to Agent Orange exposure that can receive veteran disability benefits. The addition was the latest in the chemical’s enduring legacy of hormone disruption that still affects babies born in Vietnam. Agent Orange exposure is known to cause hormonal imbalances, specifically in the hormone DHEA, which supports the normal production of sex hormones testosterone and estrogen. As recently as 2017, babies born in parts of Vietnam that were most heavily contaminated with the herbicide have much higher DHEA levels than normal. Veterans and civilians directly exposed to Agent Orange have an increased risk of endocrine diseases, which affect hormone-producing glands like the pancreas and thyroid. For example, Vietnam veterans are at higher risk of a rare thyroid condition called Graves’ disease, which causes anxiety, tremors, weight fluctuations, and bulging, irritated eyes.

Parkinsons Foundation.

Research Suggests Parkinson’s Disease May Be Linked to Agent Orange

Like hypothyroidism and bladder cancer, parkinsonism (the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease) is a relatively new addition to the list of diseases presumed to be caused by exposure to Agent Orange that receive veteran benefits. The change came more than a decade after the symptoms were found to be associated with exposure to the toxin. Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition that results from the dysfunction or death of motor neurons, brain cells that control body movements. The loss of these neurons causes tremors, slow movements, muscle stiffness, and difficulty walking, speaking, and carrying out involuntary movements like blinking. Parkinson’s disease is progressive, which means it worsens over time, and there is currently no cure.

Dick Swanson / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images

Another Toxic Chemical Called Agent Blue Also Caused Health Issues

Although many of the long-term health impacts of the Vietnam War are related to Agent Orange, the herbicide wasn’t the only toxic chemical troops and civilians were exposed to during the war. Millions of gallons of so-called rainbow herbicides were used to wipe out crops and forests, exposing approximately 4.8 million people to the chemicals’ damaging effects. Agent Blue was another herbicide used during the Vietnam War that contained arsenic, a highly toxic chemical once commonly used as a deadly poison. Those who survive arsenic poisoning face a lifetime of health issues. Arsenic exposure is linked to skin, bladder, and lung cancers, neuropathy, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Like Agent Orange, Agent Blue remains in the soil and water of areas dusted with the chemical, ensuring its devastating effects last for generations.

Where Do We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

Veterans’ Diseases Associated with Agent Orange

Agent Orange in Vietnam

Agent Orange and Cancer Risk

What Is Agent Orange?

15 Diseases Caused by Agent Orange Exposure

Long-Term Agent Orange Effects