Time running out for veteran health study

No funding -- and no plan -- to preserve data, biological specimens gathered in 25-year, $143 million project

Anne Harding
Mar 12, 2006
When the Air Force Health Study closes this fall, some scientists fear an invaluable trove of scientific information could be lost. The money runs out on September 30, and there is currently no cash set aside to preserve the 87,000 biological specimens and reams of data collected since the study opened in 1982.The $143 million project has followed 1,046 veterans who flew defoliant-spraying planes in Operation Ranch Hand and 1,223 veterans also deployed to Southeast Asia who didn't use the pesticide in their duties. In 1978, Congress directed the Air Force to launch the study, with funding from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)."What really makes it valuable is the long-term nature of it," said David Tollerud, chair of the Institute of Medicine committee tasked with making recommendations on the disposition of the study. "An extraordinary amount of data was collected on each and every person, the participation...

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