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VA expands Agent Orange related ills for Vietnam vets

Merlin G. Blaisdell, Veterans' Services Director

Three new illnesses connected with Agent Orange have been identified as result of an independent study, the U.S. Veteran's Affairs office said last month.

The St. Croix County Veteran's Services office urges area vets of the Vietnam War with questions about the effects of Agent Orange to contact the local office.

The added illnesses included B cell leukemia, Parkinson's disease and Ischemic Heart Disease. The additions resulted from studies conducted by the Institute of Medicine, which is part of the National Academy of Sciences.

Earlier this year, the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs said that Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus is statistically higher among Vietnam vets and as a result of exposure to Agent Orange.

The herbicide that came to be known as Agent Orange was used to defoliate jungle cover during the Vietnam War. An estimated 2.6 million military personnel may have been exposed to the chemical.

"There are 6,000 vets living in St. Croix County," Said Merlin Blaisdell, director of veterans' services, including a number from the Vietnam War that could have had contact with Agent Orange.

"We have already dealt with hundreds of Agent Orange claims," said Wanda Plourde, benefits specialist.

The new additions make a total of 15 illnesses linked to Agent Orange that the VA considers presumed results of contact with the herbicide by troops in Vietnam.

Agent Orange was used in Vietnam to kill plants and remove leaves from trees that provided cover for the enemy. The name came from the orange stripe on the 55-gallon drums that stored the chemicals.

Between 1961 and 1971, U.S. troops in South Vietnam used more than 19 million gallons of herbicides for defoliation and crop destruction. Agent Orange contained dioxin that studies have linked to cancer and other diseases.

Concerns about the health effects of exposure to the herbicide were first voiced in 1970 following a study that revealed birth defects related to the dioxin in Agent Orange. In 1971 U.S. forces stopped using the herbicide and in 1985 it was completely banned.

For more information contact the Veterans' Service Office in the St. Croix County Government Center in Hudson at (715) 386-4759 or go to