U.S. Ends Probe Into Agent Orange Illnesses; No Link to Cancer Found

Government health advisers debated Thursday what should be done with data and other material generated by a 24-year federal study of the health effects of exposure to Agent Orange.

The study involving veterans who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War is set to end later this month, at least partially closing another chapter on the war.

An agency of the Institute of Medicine, the Medical Follow-up Agency, is supposed to take custody of the samples. Legislation authorizing the transfer and financing remains pending in Congress.

The "Ranch Hand" study, named for the Agent Orange spraying operation in Vietnam, ends Sept. 30. It has found elevated risk for diabetes among "Ranch Handers," but no clear link to cancer.

The study included about 3,000 people — 1,000 "Ranch Handers" along with 2,000 other Air Force personnel who were not involved in the spraying of the defoliant Agent Orange.

The U.S. military sprayed some 11 million gallons of the defoliant over the jungles of southern and central Vietnam to expose enemy supply lines, sanctuaries and bases from 1962 to 1971.

Airmen were exposed to Agent Orange during spraying flights, while loading the chemical onto the aircraft and while performing maintenance on the aircraft and the equipment for spraying.

Agent Orange contains dioxin, a cancer-causing byproduct that has been linked to medical ailments in both U.S. war veterans and their Vietnamese counterparts.

The Food and Drug Administration's Ranch Hand Advisory Committee was holding its final meeting Thursday.