Agent Orange (AO) was a mixture of phenoxy herbicides, containing several dioxin impurities including 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). Various military herbicides, including AO, were sprayed by the US military and allied forces for military purposes during the Vietnam War. This study was performed to identify the associations between the AO exposure and mortality in Korean Vietnam veterans.
From 1 January 1992 to 31 December 2005, 180 639 Korean Vietnam veterans were followed up for vital status and cause of death. The AO exposure index was based on the proximity of the veteran's unit to AO-sprayed areas, using a geographical information system-based model. The adjusted hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals were calculated by Cox's proportional hazard model.
The mortality from all causes of death was elevated with AO exposure. The deaths due to all sites of cancers combined and some specific cancers, including cancers of the stomach, small intestine, liver, larynx, lung, bladder and thyroid gland, as well as chronic myeloid leukaemia, were positively associated with AO exposure. The deaths from angina pectoris, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and liver disease including liver cirrhosis were also increased with an increasing AO exposure.
Overall, this study suggests that AO/TCDD exposure may account for mortality from various diseases even several decades after exposure. Further research is needed to better understand the long-term effects of AO/TCDD exposure on human health.