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Can a Father’s Agent Orange Exposure Cause Birth Defects?

There is currently no definitive evidence that a father’s exposure to Agent Orange exposure causes birth defects. However, an analysis of Agent Orange registry data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) suggests a link between males’ exposure to Agent Orange and having children with certain birth defects. For example, exposed male veterans had a higher rate of fathering children with spina bifida. Other studies, however, including two conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the 1980s and 1990s, failed to show a statistically significant connection.

Evidence of a Connection Between Agent Orange Exposure and Birth Defects

The most thorough research available regarding the relationship between male veterans exposed to Agent Orange and children with birth defects was ProPublica’s analysis of VA registry data conducted in 2010. The researchers divided the data into two groups: veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange, and veterans were not.

In both groups, children who were conceived before the Vietnam War had low rates of birth defects: 2.6% for unexposed veterans and 2.8% for exposed veterans. Birth defects in children who were conceived after the Vietnam War increased in children of both groups of men: 9.8% for unexposed veterans and 13.1% for exposed veterans.

Observations from the ProPublica Study

There are two main takeaways from this data. One, male veterans who served in Vietnam and became fathers after the war had children with birth defects at significantly higher rates than those who fathered children before the war, regardless of Agent Orange exposure. A number of factors may explain this result, including secondary exposure and other negative health effects of combat.

Two, of the men who became fathers after the war, those who were exposed to Agent Orange had almost a 50% higher rate of birth defects than those who were not exposed. Nonetheless, further research is needed to draw firm conclusions.

Agent Orange Exposure and Spina Bifida

Despite studies showing connections between Agent Orange and a number of birth defects, VA recognizes only one birth defect as being associated with Agent Orange: spina bifida. Following a 1996 U.S. National Academy of Sciences study linking it to male veterans’ exposure to Agent Orange, VA presumed connection for children with spina bifida whose fathers were exposed.

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If you have questions about the VA disability claims process, the team of veterans lawyers at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD may be able to help. For a free case evaluation with a member of our staff, call us today at 800-544-9144.

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