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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.
In 2007, physicians John Jelovsek, Christopher Maher, and Matthew Barber published, “Pelvic Organ Prolapse,” in The Lancet. In their article, Jelovsek and colleagues provided an overview of pelvic organ prolapse in women and described the epidemiology, risk factors, symptoms, and management of the condition. Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when a woman’s pelvic floor is weakened or damaged from stress or trauma such as vaginal childbirth.
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.