ROA was briefed about the recently published report Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange Exposure which concluded that “There is no consistent evidence to suggest that Blue Water Navy veterans were at higher or lower risk for cancer or other long-term health outcomes resulting from TCDD exposure associated with Agent Orange than Brown Water Navy veterans or ground troops.”
The Institute of Higher Medicine’s (IOM) Committee on Blue Water Navy Veterans and Agent Orange Exposure, which conducted the study, shared that their conclusion was based on three things: a lack of data regarding quantity of environmental concentrations of TCDD (TCDD is Agent Orange’s dioxin contaminant), minimal TCDD loading to marine waters due to spray drift, and minimal TCDD loading to marine waters from river discharge.
The Committee plans to approach this anew by focusing on quantitative rather than qualitative data, which was used for this report.
Of concern to many stakeholders and advocates involved is the lack of utilization of the Australian studies regarding this issue. IOM spoke to this and included in their report that they did indeed look at the Australian studies and said while “The committee’s assessment corroborates the Australian finding that in experiments simulating the water-distillation system used on Navy ships the system had the potential to enrich TCDD concentrations from the feed water to the distilled potable water,” but that "without information on the TCDD concentrations in the marine feed water, it is impossible to determine whether Blue Water Navy personnel were exposed to Agent Orange–associated TCDD via ingestion, dermal contact, or inhalation of potable water.”
According to the report, the Australian studies were inconsistent with U.S. studies associating TCDD exposure with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and many of the studies didn’t account for smoking or secondhand smoke. The report noted that Australian reports found significantly lower risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, one of the first cancers that IOM established as associated with Agent Orange exposure. IOM also said during the briefing that there are several small, individual studies that are inconsistent because they were methodologically flawed.
While the IOM did agree with aspects of the Australian studies, it could not per its scientific processes and requirements conclude the same full results. So yet again, American Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans, similar to the nuclear veterans, are being forced to wait out a lengthy process.
Gulf War Veterans and those that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan will likely find for a few or several years hence that they have and will run into very analogous circumstances in trying to prove their health problems are strongly related to their combat service.