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Agent Orange as a Cause of Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is a birth defect that affects the spines of developing fetuses and infants, and research in the 20th century indicated that chemicals in the herbicide Agent Orange likely lead to the birth defect. People with spina bifida can have nerve damage, paralysis, and mental disabilities. During the Vietnam War in the 1960s, the US military employed Agent Orange and other herbicides to destroy enemy crops and forest cover until 1970.

Format: Article

Subject: Disorders

Agent Orange Birth Defects

Sprayed extensively by the US military in Vietnam, Agent Orange contained a dioxin contaminant later found to be toxic to humans. Despite reports by Vietnamese citizens and Vietnam War veterans of increased rates of stillbirths and birth defects in their children, studies in the 1980s showed conflicting evidence for an association between the two. In 1996, the US National Academy of Sciences reported that there was evidence that suggested dioxin and Agent Orange exposure caused spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal cord develops improperly.

Format: Article

Subject: Disorders

"Veterans and Agent Orange Update 1996: Summary and Research Highlights" by the US National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine

In March 1996, the National Academy of Sciences of the United States released 'Veterans and Agent Orange Update 1996: Summary and Research Highlights,' which summarized research on the health effects of Agent Orange and other herbicides used in the Vietnam War. In their 1996 report, the National Academy connects Agent Orange exposure with two health conditions: spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spinal cord develops improperly, and peripheral neuropathy, a nervous system condition in which the peripheral nerves are damaged.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"Vietnam Veterans' Risks for Fathering Babies with Birth Defects" (1984), by J. David Erickson, Joseph Mulinare, Philip W. McClain, Terry G. Fitch, Levy M. James, Anne B. McClearn, Myron J. Adams, Jr.

In 1984, J. David Erickson and his research team published the results of a study titled 'Vietnam Veterans' Risks for Fathering Babies with Birth Defects' that indicated that Vietnam veterans were at increased risk of fathering infants with serious congenital malformations, or birth defects.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"Health Status of Vietnam Veterans III. Reproductive Outcomes and Child Health" (1988) by the US Centers for Disease Control

In 1988, the US Centers for Disease Control published 'Health Status of Vietnam Veterans III. Reproductive Outcomes and Child Health,' which summarized part of the results of the Vietnam Experience Study commissioned by US Congress to assess the health of US Vietnam veterans. They published the article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The most heavily used herbicide in the Vietnam, Agent Orange, had previously been found to contain a contaminant linked to birth defects in rats.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Neural Tube Defects (NTD): Folic Acid and Pregnancy

In the US, one in 1000 births is affected by neural tube defects (NTD). A neural tube defect is a birth defect involving the malformation of body features associated with the brain and spinal cord. An NTD originates from and is characterized by incomplete closure of the neural tube, which is an organizer and precursor of the central nervous system.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Birth Defects Caused by Agent Orange

During the Vietnamese War between 1961 and 1971 the United States armed forces engaged in a massive defoliation and crop destruction campaign named Operation Ranch Hand. Agent Orange, an herbicide so named because of the orange color of its storage barrels, was the most heavily used herbicide of the campaign. In addition to military personnel from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and the United States, an estimated 4.8 million Vietnamese civilians were exposed to herbicides during the war.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Congenital Vertebral Defects

The spinal column is the central structure in the vertebrate body from which stability, movement, and posture all derive. The vertebrae of the spine are organized into four regions (listed in order from cranial to caudal): cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and pelvic. These regions are classified by their differences in curvature. The human spine usually consists of thirty-three vertebrae, seven of which are cervical (C1-C7), twelve are thoracic (T1-T12), five are lumbar (L1-L5), and nine are pelvic (five fused as the sacrum and four fused as the coccyx).

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

Fetal Surgery

Fetal surgeries are a range of medical interventions performed in utero on the developing fetus of a pregnant woman to treat a number of congenital abnormalities. The first documented fetal surgical procedure occurred in 1963 in Auckland, New Zealand when A. William Liley treated fetal hemolytic anemia, or Rh disease, with a blood transfusion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Ethics, Reproduction

Chorionic Villus Sampling

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) is a test used for prenatal diagnosis. Safe to perform at an earlier stage in pregnancy than amniocentesis, CVS is another invasive prenatal diagnostic test that can be performed as early as ten weeks after the woman's last menstrual cycle. While this test does carry some risks, it is generally very effective at predicting heritable diseases during or soon after the embryonic stage of development.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Ethics of Fetal Surgery

Surgeons sometimes operate on the developing fetuses in utero of pregnant women as a medical intervention to treat a number of congential abnormalities, operations that have ethical aspects. A. William Liley performed the first successful fetal surgery, a blood transfusion, in New Zealand in 1963 to counteract the effects of hemolytic anemia, or Rh disease.

Format: Articles

Subject: Science and Society

United States v. University Hospital (1984)

The US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals' 1984 decision United States v. University Hospital, State University Hospital of New York at Stony Brook set a significant precedent for affirming parental privilege to make medical decisions for handicapped newborns, while limiting the ability of the federal government to intervene. The ruling stemmed from the 1983 case involving an infant born with severe physical and mental congenital defects; the infant was only identified as Baby Jane Doe.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Retinoids As Teratogens

Vitamin A (retinol) is an essential vitamin in the daily functioning of human beings that helps regulate cellular differentiation of epithelial tissue. Studies have shown that an excess of vitamin A can affect embryonic development and result in teratogenesis, or the production of birth defects in a developing embryo. Excess intake of vitamin A and retinoids by pregnant women often results malformations to fetuses' skulls, faces, limbs, eyes, central nervous system.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation (1979-1984)

In the legal case In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation of the early 1980s, US military veterans of the Vietnam War sued the US chemical companies that had produced the herbicide Agent Orange, and those companies settled with US veterans out of court. Agent Orange contains dioxin, a chemical later shown to disrupt the hormone system of the body and to cause cancer. As veterans returned to the US from Vietnam, scientists further confirmed that exposure to Agent Orange caused a variety of cancers in veterans and developmental problems in the veterans' children.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Ethics