Findings on Blood Pressure from the Army Chemical Corps Vietnam-era Veterans Health Study
VA researchers have found a link between service-related occupational exposure to herbicides and high blood pressure (hypertension) risk among U.S. Army Chemical Corps (ACC) Veterans, a group of Veterans assigned to perform chemical operations during the Vietnam War.
Researchers at VA’s Post Deployment Health Services Epidemiology Program, Office of Patient Care Services, conducted the Army Chemical Corps Vietnam-Era Veterans Health Study, from which data on nearly 4,000 Veterans who served in the ACC between 1965 and 1973 were examined. The study included a survey that requested information from these Veterans on their exposure to herbicides, whether they were ever diagnosed with hypertension by a physician, and their health behaviors, such as cigarette smoking and alcohol use. To confirm self-reported hypertension, researchers conducted in-home blood pressure measurements and a medical records review for a portion of the study participants.
ACC Veterans were studied because of their documented occupational involvement with chemical distribution, storage, and maintenance during military service. This study followed a request by former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki for VA to conduct research on the association between herbicide exposure and hypertension to gain a better understanding of whether hypertension is related to military service in Vietnam.
“This study expands our knowledge of the relationship between hypertension risk and both herbicide exposure and service in Vietnam among Veterans who served during the War by focusing on a specific group of Vietnam era Veterans who were occupationally involved in chemical operations,” said Yasmin Cypel, Ph.D., M.S., principal investigator on this study.
Self-reported hypertension was the highest among Veterans who distributed or maintained herbicides (sprayers) in Vietnam (81.6%), followed by Veterans who sprayed herbicides and served during the Vietnam War but never in Southeast Asia (non-Vietnam Veterans) (77.4%), Veterans who served in Vietnam but did not spray herbicides (72.2%), and Veterans who did not spray herbicides and were non-Vietnam Veterans (64.6%).
The odds of developing hypertension among herbicide sprayers were estimated to be 1.74 times the odds among non-sprayers, and the odds of developing hypertension among those who served in Vietnam were 1.26 times the odds among non-Vietnam Veterans.
The researchers would like to extend their thanks to all of the Army Chemical Corps Vietnam-Era Veterans who participated in this study.
To read more about the Army Chemical Corps Vietnam-Era Veterans Health Study, go to http://www.publichealth.va.gov/epidemiology/studies/vietnam-army-chemical-corps.asp. To read a summary of the published article containing findings from this study, go to https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27820763.
VA will review the results from this research, along with findings from similar studies and reports from the Health and Medicine Division (HMD), formerly known as the Institute of Medicine, of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, when considering hypertension as a presumptive service condition for Vietnam Veterans. To read about HMD reports on Veterans and Agent Orange, go to https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/publications/health-and-medicine-division.asp.