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Inherited Disorders and Birth Defects

Agent Orange and Birth Defects

07/10/2007

Question:

How to make a long story sort....I am the daughter of a Vietnam Vet who was exposed to agent orange. My father had a form of Malanoma in the eye and then died of heart failure when he was 56.

I have had numerous unusual prblems since I was birn. First, my back hurt me and I complained as young as two yrs old. Doctors were always stumped and told my parents I was stressed out. When I wa 14 I was diagnosed with Congenital Spondylolisthesis at the L5. Later with MRI it was discoverd that both the L4 and L5 were malformed. When I was 30 I had reconstructive surgery. I developed tendonitis in both wrist around age 16 and in knees around age 25. Probably there before, I just ignored it. I also have unusual stomach ailments- I have GERD which is interesting as I don`t drink, eat spicey foods, or engage in other activities that are typically related to GERD. I became lactose intollerant when I was 12. I have several synthetic allergies including Latex, Nylon, Silver, other metals and Rayon. Not to mention skin care products and cleaning products. I often feel like a 60 year old in the body of a 30 year old.

Ultimately my question is are all these related and could they be the result of my father`s agent orange exposure?

Answer:

Agent Orange (named because of the orange strip on the barrel) was a 50:50 mixture of two herbicides, 2, 4-D and 2, 4, 5-T that was used in Vietnam to destroy foliage. When it is manufactured it produces a byproduct called TCDD (2, 3, 7, 8-tetrachlorodibenzo-para-dioxin) which is a dioxin. The National Toxicology Program has stated that exposure to TCDD may cause cancer such as soft-tissue sarcomas, Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

There have also been a number of studies that have looked at children born to veterans of Vietnam exposed to agent orange to see if there was an increased number of birth defects. Results have been controversial because the data from these studies are very conflicting. There may be a number of reasons for this - many studies involve small numbers of people or the way in which the data were collected was very different from study to study, making it difficult to compare findings. However, the National Academy of Sciences has decided that there is some evidence of an association between fathers exposed to TCDD and spina bifida - a birth defect where the spine has not closed properly.

As you probably know, spondylolisthesis is a condition in which a bone (vertebra) in the lower part of the spine slips forward and onto a bone below it. This is not associated with spina bifida. It is not possible to say whether your symptoms are all related - I do not know of any single disorder that connects spondylolisthesis, reflux disease and allergies. Also, I could not find any literature that mentioned these problems in studies of children with birth defects born to fathers exposed to TCDD.

You may want to contact the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists listed at the website below to ask for additional information about agent orange. It has listings for Teratogen Information Services across the US.

Related Resources:

Organization of Teratology Information Specialists

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Response by:

Anne   Matthews, RN, PhD Anne Matthews, RN, PhD
Associate Professor of Genetics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University