BUFFALO, N.Y. – A University at Buffalo expert on dioxin
toxicology has just completed his service on the National Academies
Institute of Medicine panel on Veterans and Agent Orange. Last
week, the panel -- the Committee to Review the Health Effects in
Vietnam Veterans of Exposure to Herbicides -- released its 2010
These reports, issued biennially to the Department of Veterans
Affairs, help advise officials on policy decisions regarding
compensation to veterans for service-related illnesses.
"We do our best to critically look at all the human health data
available on the adverse effects of chemicals used during the
Vietnam War," explains James R. Olson, PhD, professor of
pharmacology and toxicology, UB School of Medicine and Biomedical
Sciences and social and preventive medicine, UB School of Public
health and Health Professions. "We want to inform veterans about
the potential risks associated with their service to our country
during the Vietnam War."
Since last fall, Olson and other committee members have
conducted an extensive review of the scientific literature
published on service-related illnesses and held public hearings
"Every year we get more data," Olson says. He cautions that the
committee can consider studies involving diseases and conditions
related to Agent Orange exposure as long as they are
The committee considered all studies published in a
peer-reviewed journal that involved humans exposed to Agent Orange.
Many of the studies involved exposures among workers who
manufactured Agent Orange at sites throughout the U.S.
Western New York was among the sites where Agent Orange was
manufactured and high concentrations of dioxin were later found at
areas in Niagara Falls, near the Love Canal neighborhood, which was
evacuated in 1978 due to toxic waste seepage.
Dioxin or TCDD is an unwanted chemical contaminant that can be
generated during the production of herbicides such as Agent Orange,
which the US military used as a defoliant in Vietnam from 1962 to
Olson, who directs the environmental health sciences division in
UB's School of Public Health and Health Professions, says that
toxicological studies determined decades ago that dioxin is the
most potent known tumor promoter, in addition to being the most
potent manmade toxin.
The Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act of 2001
mandated that the Veterans and Agent Orange biennial updates
continue through 2014.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.