Study links war vets' illness with dioxin

21:21, Sep 02 2013

New Zealand Vietnam veterans deployed in a "toxic war environment" were exposed to a significantly higher risk of leukaemia, a newly released Otago University study finds.

The study found veterans who served between 1962 and 1971 have double the rate of chronic lymphatic leukaemia compared to the general population, lead author David McBride said.

McBride is an associate professor in the university's department of preventive and social medicine.

Most veterans deployed in the Nui Dat area of Phuoc Tuy province experienced a "toxic environment" because of the widespread use of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D as defoliant herbicides, the study found.

This mixture - more commonly known as Agent Orange - was contaminated with the carcinogen 2,3,7,8,TCDD, or dioxin.

"The US Institute of Medicine, in its report Veterans and Agent Orange: Health Effects of Herbicides Used in Vietnam, first classified chronic lymphatic leukaemia on its sufficient evidence for cancer list in 2002, based on dioxin toxicity and studies of farm workers exposed to herbicides.

"The cohorts of Australian and New Zealand soldiers are the only group of Vietnam veterans to show an actual excess of the disease."

Invercargill Vietnam veteran Ian Beker said he served on and off for about 15 years with a Vietnam veteran who died of leukaemia three years ago.

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