Published November 3, 2011
James R. Olson, PhD, professor of pharmacology and toxicology, recently collaborated on a report that helps advise officials on policy decisions regarding compensation to Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
The report marked the culmination of his work on an Institute of Medicine committee that reviewed how herbicides used in Vietnam affect veterans’ health.
“We want to inform veterans about the potential risks associated with their service to our country during the Vietnam War,” says Olson, an expert on dioxin toxicology who directs the environmental health sciences division in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions.
Olson and fellow committee members extensively reviewed studies on diseases and conditions associated with Agent Orange and other herbicides the U.S. military sprayed in Vietnam.
The committee also held public hearings with veterans before issuing their 2010 report to The Department of Veterans Affairs.
“We do our best to critically look at all the human health data available on the adverse effects of chemicals used during the Vietnam War,” Olson says, adding that the committee only considered studies in peer-reviewed journals.
The Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act of 2001 mandates that such reports continue biennially through 2014.
“Every year we get more data,” says Olson, noting that dioxin—the chemical contaminant that can be generated during the production of herbicides such as Agent Orange—is the most potent known tumor promoter and man-made toxin.