As I’ve written before, the Institute of Medicine produces plentiful publications connecting the environment to human health. Two new reports that came out at the end of 2013 are cases in point, one providing limited new data in an ongoing debate about the impacts of Agent Orange on U.S. veterans of the Vietnam War, and another summarizing a workshop conducted in January on the air, water, land use, food security, and social impacts of biofuels, a first foray into studying the potential downsides of our increasing reliance on this alternative energy source. Below are the IoM’s brief synopses of each and the links to the full reports.
“Because of continuing uncertainty about the long term health effects of sprayed herbicides on Vietnam veterans, Congress passed the Agent range Act of 1991. The legislation directed the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to request the IOM to perform a comprehensive evaluation of scientific and medical information regarding the health effects of exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides used in Vietnam. Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2012 is the ninth congressionally mandated biennial update. The committee reviewed all relevant literature published between October 2010 and September 2011 and integrated the new findings with the previously assembled epidemiological data on each health outcome assessed with respect to exposure to the chemicals constituting the herbicides used in Vietnam, including the dioxin contaminant 2,3,7,8-TCDD. The single new conclusion was that there is limited or suggestive evidence of a scientifically meaningful association of stroke with exposure to the chemicals in question.”
“Liquid fuels are a major part of modern life, supplying energy for all modes of transportation as well as power for industrial and farming machinery. But fossil fuels – the dominant liquid fuel for well over a century – have many disadvantages. New policies encourage the development of renewable sources of energy in general and biofuels in particular, but it is important to understand how these policies may impact human health. In January 2013, the IOM held a workshop on the intersection of biofuels, climate change, and human health. The workshop focused on air, water, land use, food security, and social impacts of
biofuels as an energy resource.”