Agent Orange – Does it cause diseases to spouse?

Q:

I’m wondering how agent orange exposure can affect spouse. My husband was exposed in agent orange, now I have skin rash that can’t be diagnosed. Is it because of agent orange?

A:

First of all, please accept our respects to a veteran.

Agent Orange is a blend of tactical herbicides the U.S. military sprayed from 1962 to 1971 during Operation Ranch Hand in the Vietnam War to remove trees and dense tropical foliage that provided enemy cover. Agent Orange was not the only one that was used at that time. The tactical herbicides termed Rainbow herbicides include:

  • Agent Green: used pre-1963. Over 8,000 gallons used
  • Agent Pink: used pre-1964. 122,792 gallons
  • Agent Purple: used from 1961–65. 145,000 gallons
  • Agent Blue: used from 1962–71.  2,166,656 gallons used
  • Agent White: used from 1965 to 197 or 71.   5,239,853 gallons used
  • Agent Orange or Herbicide Orange: used 1965–70
  • Agent Orange II: used after 1968.
  • Agent Orange III
  • Enhanced Agent Orange, Orange Plus, or Super Orange (SO)

Agent Orange is a combination of the chemicals n-butyl ester 2, 4-D and n-butyl ester 2,4,5-T.  The rest of the rainbow herbicides are some combination of these two chemicals or variants. Without getting too technical, all of these agents contain dioxin and dioxin-like compounds.  Some, such as Agent Pink and Agent Green, had twice as much dioxin as Agent Orange.

Code/Name Primary Agents in Herbicide Time Used in Vietnam
Pink 60% n-butyl ester of 2,4,5-T
40% isobutyl ester of 2,4,5-T
1962-1965
Green 100% n-butyl ester of 2,4,5-T 1962-1965
Pink-Green mixture 80% n-butyl ester of 2,4,5-T
20% isobutyl ester of 2,4,5-T
1962-1965
Purple 50% n-butyl ester of 2,4-D
30% n-butyl ester of 2,4,5-T
20% isobutyl ester of 2,4,5-T
1962-1965
Blue 100% sodium salt of cacodylic acid 1962-1971
Orange 50% n-butyl ester of 2,4-D
50% n-butyl ester of 2,4,5-T
1965 and after
Orange II 50% n-butyl ester of 2,4-D
50% isooctyl ester of 2,4,5-T
1965 and after
White 80% triisopropanolamine salt of 2,4-D
20% triisopropanolamine salt of picloram
1965 and after

n-butyl ester 2, 4-D

It has high volatility and permeability, when means this substance can penetrate through human skin, lead to carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, and neurotoxicity.

n-butyl ester 2,4,5-T

This substance, when soldiers were exposed, can be inhaled into human body and lead to liver and kidney damage.

TCDD

This is an unwanted byproduct of herbicide production, but can lead to cancer and birth defect. TCDD is the most toxic of the dioxins.

 

All the three substances may lead to a list of diseases, and the list may go on when time goes on. However, the toxicity is within the body of the exposed person, and possibly pass to the children, but not contagious to other people by daily life contact, theoretically. There is no report of spouse being affected by exposed husband or wife up to now.

 

Continuous Study

US Department of Veteran Affairs contracts with the Health and Medicine Division (HMD) (formally known as the Institute of Medicine) of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, a non-governmental organization, to scientifically review evidence on the long-term health effects of Agent Orange and other herbicides on Vietnam Veterans. The HMD regularly updates its reports on Veterans and Agent Orange.

Contact HMD:

Phone (202) 334-2352

Email: HMD-NASEM@nas.edu

 

 

 

 

 

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