We've spoken before about Agent Orange, one of a collection of so-called "rainbow herbicides" sprayed during the conflict in Vietnam as part of the defoliation efforts used by the American military. Agent Orange contamination left thousands of veterans exposed to dangerous chemicals that, over time, have been correlated with a spate of chronic illnesses and even cancers.
While many Vietnam-era veterans are aware of their ability to file for VA Disability as a result of Agent Orange contamination, fewer are aware of another common herbicide utilized during Vietnam: Agent Blue.
You may be able to file VA Disability claims for Agent Blue if you were exposed during your time in service. Let's take a closer look at what Agent Blue is and what kinds of health effects come as a result of exposure.
What is Agent Blue?
Barrels of Agent Blue were ringed with a blue stripe (hence the name) and contained an arsenical herbicide, known scientifically as cacodylic acid, that starves plants of moisture. Defoliation occurs when the acid dessicates, or dries out, all plant life exposed to it.
Agent Blue, also written out as (CH3)2AsOOH, is obtained by the oxidation of cacodyl, and has extremely stable acid properties.
Defined in medical literature s "an arsenic-based herbicide used to destroy broadleaf plants and trees (including grass, rice, bamboo, banana trees, etc), used especially on rice paddies during the Vietnam War. 1.25 million US gallons of Agent Blue were used, successfully destroying 500,000 acres of crops."
Agent Blue's primary chemical is arsenic.
What Effects Does Arsenic Have on the Human Body?
Arsenic holds the highest ranking on the current U.S. ATSDR 2011 substance priority list. This list ranks chemicals using an algorithm, or formula, that translates potential public health hazards into a points-scaled system, based on the frequency of occurrence at National Priority List Superfund sites, as well as their overall toxicity and potential for human exposure.
As a signal of how dangerous it truly is to human health, arsenic tops the list despite the fact that rankings do not include full consideration of exposure due to drinking water, diet, copper-chromated arsenic-treated wood, coal, wood-burning stoves, arsenical pesticides, and homeopathic remedies.
Due to this lack of full consideration, it is reasonable to assume that the threat to human health posed by arsenic is magnitudes greater than its top ATSDR ranking suggests.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) defines arsenic as a Group 1 known human carcinogen that also includes a wide array of other noncancer effects.
Immune system effects of arsenic exposure are evident in several contexts, including immune-related gene expression and cytokine production in lymphocytes. Arsenic is associated with significant increases in infant morbidity from infectious diseases, and the presence of urinary arsenic during pregnancy is significantly associated with increased inflammation and reduced T-cell numbers alongside altered cytokine profiles in cord blood. Reduced thymic function has also been noted in infants with arsenic exposure.
In a study of pancreatic cancer cluster and arsenic-contaminated drinking water wells in Florida, researchers found that "partial modeling identified 16 clusters in which 22.6% of all pancreatic cancer cases were located. Cases living within 1 mile of known arsenic-contaminated wells were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with a cluster of pancreatic cancers" when compared to cases that lived 3 or more miles away from known sites.
How Often Are People Exposed to Arsenic?
Arsenic exposure is surprisingly common, and not limited to toxic waste sites or poisoning events like the use of Agent Blue. Some deleterious exposures come from naturally occurring substances, like arsenic in drinking water.
Despite current efforts to lessen exposure and health effects of this toxic chemical, over 200 million people worldwide are at risk of arsenic exposure at levels that are deeply concerning for human health.
Exposure to arsenic does not necessarily result in instant or immediately obvious health effects. In some cases latency periods from initial exposure to cancer development to diagnosis canextend over more than 50 years.
What Does This Mean for Vietnam Veterans?
Veterans who served in Vietnam and have subsequently developed any type of cancer should immediately seek a medical opinion as to whether or not Agent Blue is at least as likely as not to have contributed to the development of the cancer.
If you're a Vietnam Veteran exposed to Agent Orange or Agent Blue who has since been diagnosed with any of the illnesses or cancers associated with exposure, it's also worth sitting down with a legal representative to work through your potential options and decide on the next best step for you and your family.
To request a FREE consultation with the SC Veterans Advocates Team at Bluestein Attorneys, give us a call at (803) 779-7599 or contact us online at any time.