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Battle With Birth Defects: Agent Orange

Spina Bifida birth defect

Back between 1962 to 1971, when the United States of America and Vietnam were at loggerheads and war, a mixture of herbicides sprayed in Vietnam, and in millions of gallons by the US military forces. These were essentially used to kill plants and clean out the forest cover, which hampered operations for the US army. The fact that this herbicide, carried in drums marked with orange strips, therefore came to be known as Agent Orange. Upon their return to the US, many veterans reported skin rashes, psychological symptoms, congenital disabilities in their children and cancer. It was widely believed first and then revealed; the role of ‘Agent Orange’ in these changes. In general, with childbirth these came to known as Agent Orange symptoms.

The ‘Agent Orange’ birth defect list is rather extensive and impossible to cover in one go. Following are the common genetic defects, children or grandchildren inherited from those war veterans along with some of Agent Orange symptoms.

Agent Orange Birth Defects

Anencephaly

Anencephaly is a neural tube defect. This defect is characterised by the absence of a part of the skull and the brain and occurs when the neural fails to close.

Although the exact cause of this defect still somewhat remains unknown, the fingers point in the direction of its association about the exposure to environmental toxins. Another reasoning is that, during the first trimester of pregnancy, the inadequate intake of folic acid could also be credited with this defect. The characteristics that define this defect in the baby are noted by the observations like the absence of the skull or part of the brain. With many babies, there have been facial deformities as well.

Down syndrome

A genetic defect by nature, Down syndrome is caused when an extra copy of chromosome 21 is formed. This formation causes changes with the healthy development of the baby’s body and brain. Children who have down syndrome, have flat faces, small ears, short neck, slanted eyes and poor muscle tone. In this case, however, there have been large number of cases, post-exposure to ‘Agent Orange’ that future children of the exposed have been born with down syndrome, but this defect is also credited to women giving birth at an increased maternal age or due to the presence of this defect in the family’s history.

Hydrocephalus

In this, the brain experiences swelling, due to the accumulation of the cerebrospinal fluid inside the cranium. This occurrence is when cerebrospinal fluid gets over-produced, it causes abnormal accumulation, or the liquid is disturbed or blocked in its passageway.

This accumulation then exerts tremendous pressure on the brain, which may cause injury, leading to the destruction of vital brain tissues.

The common causes of this defect in infants, include CNS infection, brain haemorrhage, trauma to the child’s head, tumour in the CNS and prolonged exposure to teratogenic agents. Hydrocephalus and its symptoms include irritability, shrill cry, seizures, projectile vomiting and sunset eyes.

Spina Bifida

Spina Bifida birth defect

Spina Bifida is another type of neural tube defects. When the spinal cord fails to close during the early trimester of pregnancy is when this error starts to take shape in the baby. There are often cases of nerve damage, which eventually leads to leg paralysis.

Apart from that, there are many other health problems associated with Spina Bifida. Hydrocephalus, urinary problems, bowel problems and learning disability are some of the most vital problems associated. As in the previous defect, even here this deficiency is connected with the mother’s lack of adequate intake of folic acid during pregnancy.

Other Defects

The defects as mentioned above are just a few in the extensive Agent Orange birth defects list. Further studies into this also found out that several of the War Veterans’ children had several heart defects, digestive tract defects, urinary tract malformations, oral clefts and some neoplasms, like neuroblastoma, among loads of other agent orange birth defects.

About the hospital:

Ankura Hospitals is a chain of super-specialty hospitals for women and children in the cyber city of Hyderabad. Set up in the year 2011 in KPHB, near Hitech Railway Station, the Ankura Hospitals family has today spread its wings to Secunderabad, Khammam and Vijayawada.

Source: Blogs