IOM: Reservists Were Exposed to Agent Orange

At least some of the 1,500 to 2,100 Air Force Reservists who worked on C-123 aircraft between 1972 and 1982, which were previously used to spray Agent Orange during Operation Ranch Hand in Vietnam, “were exposed” to toxic herbicides and could be at risk for “a variety of adverse responses,” according to a new report released by an Institute of Medicine scientific panel. “The committee is firm in its conviction that AF Reservists working in ORH C-123s were exposed … to the components of AO to some extent,” states the report. “The committee members could not stand behind any particular exposure estimates produced by manipulating the existing data, but they are clear in their finding that the surface-wipe sampling measurements of dioxin gathered in 1994, 1995, and 2009 are fully consistent with exposures to AF Reservists while working on ORH C-123 planes that exceeded international exposure guidelines.” The findings are a hard-fought victory for the C-123 Veterans Association, led by retired Air Force Maj. Wes Carter, which has fought to reverse the Veterans Administration’s decision to deny the Reservists compensation under the Agent Orange Act of 1991 because they did not come in contact with the substance during the war. In a Jan. 10 blog post, Carter called the decision a “game-changer,” saying the IOM report sent a “clear message” to both the VA and the Air Force. The report is “solid justification for feeling their duty to America’s veterans has been satisified,” wrote Carter. (See also The Lingering Story of Agent Orange from the January issue of Air Force Magazine.)