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Pulmonary Fibrosis

Pulmonary Fibrosis vs Agent Orange

08/11/2009

Question:

Can pulmonary fibrosis be caused by inhaling Agent Orange in the Vietnam War?

Answer:

Probably not. Agent Orange has been proposed to cause birth defects and endocrinology problems as well as a number of other conditions. In order to better answer your question, I did a literature search using the PubMed program available from the National Institutes of Health. There is only 1 article reporting a single patient that suggested that Agent Orange might be responsible for interstitial lung disease in this one patient. The reason that the authors attributed the lung disease to Agent Orange exposure was that they were not able to identify any other likely causes of interstitial lung disease in the patient, and so the evidence linking Agent Orange to interstitial lung disease is not very strong. This article was published in the German medical journal Klinische Wochenschrift. 

In general, I would be hesitant to attribute a causal relationship for any type of exposure on the basis of one case report.

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Response by:

James N Allen, Jr, MD James N Allen, Jr, MD
Clinical Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University