I get emails daily with a wide variety of questions. One of the most common questions is if genetic testing is available which will detect Agent Orange in dependents of Vietnam veterans exposed. Many children of Vietnam veterans & their families want to have their DNA tested. At one time there was a program, University of South Carolina-The Center for Developmental Disabilities, for the children of Vietnam veterans, offered genetic counseling but has since been discontinued.
I often write that this is a difficult issue to answer because there is no one easy answer. My understanding is that genetic testing is available and is very costly. Will the test reveal what it is we wish to know? I don’t think so.
I do know that there are children of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange who have been tested. However, they were tested only after they were diagnosed with a rare disease or a disease that couldn’t be explained by their family history. In each case a mutated gene was found. It is my understanding that mutated genes can be linked to environmental exposures. Gene Mutations and Genetic Change.
There are also less expensive tests that will detect dioxin in the body called body burden testing. This type of testing might be easier to obtain & could be less expensive if you have been exposed directly or just want to find out how many chemicals and toxins are present in your body. This notion brings up an interesting issue which we have encountered on numerous occasions.
The issue is whether or not the children of Vietnam veterans have enough dioxin in their bodies to be detected by ‘Body Burden Testing’. If the dioxin was passed genetically, then it stands to reason that, dioxin would not be present (since the child was not exposed directly) unless the dioxin has accumulated from other sources which is to be expected since it occurs naturally and is passed through the food chain.