Herbicide exposure has led to higher death rates among Vietnam war veterans, new study shows.
Researchers led by Yasmin Cypel, PhD, Environmental Epidemiology Service of the US Department of Veterans Affairs, examined the risk of disease-related mortality of the Army Chemical Corps (ACC) veterans who handled/sprayed herbicides, and the findings have been published in the Annals of Epidemiology.
Vital status was determined through December 31, 2005. All-cause mortality and cause-specific mortality were compared for individuals who served in Vietnam versus those who did not. Similar analyses were completed on a subset of the original Vietnam cohort that consisted of individuals who either reported spraying herbicide or not. The observed deaths rates were also compared with expected deaths for U.S. men.
Statistically significant excess mortality was found for ACC Vietnam veterans for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. When examining patterns for veterans in the Vietnam veteran subset, they found nonsignificant elevated risk among herbicide sprayers for all-cause, respiratory system disease, and respiratory system cancer mortality.
Compared with U.S. men, the Vietnam veteran cohort had significant excess mortality for all-causes, respiratory system cancer, nonmalignant respiratory system disease, and miscellaneous malignant cancers.
The risk of mortality from respiratory disease (malignant or nonmalignant) was significantly greater for ACC Vietnam veterans in comparison with their non-Vietnam veteran peers and U.S. men. Herbicide exposure could be contributing to the patterns observed, the researchers concluded.