Medical researchers say there may be a link between exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange and other herbicides used during the Vietnam War and an increased chance of developing serious heart problems and Parkinson's disease.
A study from the Institute of Medicine released Friday contains several caveats, but suggests there is a stronger connection than previously thought about the health risks to Vietnam veterans.
American forces sprayed millions of gallons of Agent Orange and other defoliants over parts of Vietnam from 1962 to 1970. Military authorities used the defoliants in an attempt to massively prune away the dense jungle cover used by North Vietnamese forces to hide.
American troops and others exposed to the chemicals later complained of numerous health problems, however, and researchers are still trying to determine the scope of the damage.
To determine whether Vietnam veterans faced an increased chance of ischemic heart disease - a condition involving reduced blood supply to the heart - researchers reviewed several studies that showed links between higher exposure levels and greater incidence of the disease.
Other factors such as smoking, age, and weight can also play a role, they noted. Still, they said veterans exposed to the chemicals may be at greater risk.