February 25, 2014 -- From 1971-1982, Air Force reservists, who flew in 34 dioxin-contaminated aircraft used to spray Agent Orange and returned to the U.S. following discontinuation of the herbicide spraying operations in the Vietnam War, were exposed to greater levels of dioxin than previously acknowledged, according to a study published today in Environmental Research by senior author Jeanne Mager Stellman, PhD, professor emerita at the Mailman School of Public Health's Department of Health Policy and Management.
"These findings are important because they describe a previously unrecognized source of exposure to dioxin that has health significance to those who engaged in the transport work using these aircraft," according to Dr. Stellman and Peter A. Lurker, PhD, PE, CIH, an environmental engineer with many years of experience evaluating environmental exposures in the Air Force.
During the Vietnam War, in an operation known as "Operation Ranch Hand," approximately 20 million gallons of herbicides, including around 10.5 million gallons of dioxin-contaminated Agent Orange, were sprayed by 34 C-123 aircraft. These aircraft were subsequently returned to the U.S. and were used by Air Force reserve units between 1971 and 1982 for transport operations. After many years without monitoring, tests revealed the presence of dioxin (also known as TCDD). All but three of the aircraft were smelted down in 2009.
The Air Force and Department of Veterans Affairs have previously denied benefits to these crew members. Current policies stipulate that "non-biologically available dried residues" of chemical herbicides and dioxin would not have led to meaningful exposures to flight crew and maintenance personnel, who are therefore ineligible for Agent Orange-related benefits or medical examinations and treatment.
Researchers estimated dioxin body burden using modeling algorithms developed by the US Army and data derived from surface wipe
|Contact: Stephanie Berger|
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health