Beginning soon after returning from Vietnam, veterans saw to their dismay that their children were being born with an unusual incidence of hydrocephaly, anencephaly, spina bifida and neural tube defects, club foot, cleft palate, missing extremities, fused digits, heart defects, blindness, and many other such conditions.
Epidemiological studies reviewed by the Institute of Medicine have not shown that there are increased rates of birth defects among children of male Vietnam veterans, except for spina bifida, where it found a “limited/suggested” association between paternal exposure to the herbicides used in Vietnam or to dioxin, and a higher risk of spina bifida among their children.
Meanwhile, VA studies of women who served in Vietnam (of which there were only about 8000) found that there were significantly increased rates of birth defects compared to non-Vietnam veteran women.
“It wasn’t my war.”
– Mary Beth Hoffman, 41, born with a deformed left hip,
Chicago Tribune, 2009.
Today, most children of Vietnam veterans are adults and having their own families. However, little is known what the effects their parent’s exposure to herbicide and/or dioxin in Vietnam may have had on children after the first year of life. Many children of veterans suspect that their illnesses, poor health, or learning disabilities are related to their father’s exposure to Agent Orange. Several social networking groups such as Agent Orange Legacy and Second Voice have been formed by children of Vietnam veterans to share their concerns about the health issues and to call for studies to be funded on the health issues of children of Vietnam veterans. The Vietnam Veterans of America has started telling the stories of children who believe their health issues are caused by Agent Orange in their Faces of Agent Orange series.
The Last Ghost of War
The second generation grows up.
by Fred A. Wilcox