Dioxins and dioxin-like chemicals in blood and semen of American Vietnam veterans from the state of Michigan

Am J Ind Med. 1996 Dec;30(6):647-54. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0274(199612)30:6<647::AID-AJIM1>3.0.CO;2-O.


This exposure assessment pilot study tested the hypothesis that elevated blood levels of the dioxin congener 2,3,7,8-TCDD ("TCDD"), due to Agent Orange exposure, in American Vietnam veterans could be demonstrated two to three decades after Vietnam service. A second objective was to determine if dioxins, including TCDD, are present in the semen of adult males. In the early 1990s, blood samples from 50 Vietnam veterans and three pooled semen samples from 17 of them were analyzed by high-resolution gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy for dioxins, dibenzofurans, and the dioxin-like PCBs. Fifty volunteers from the Michigan Vietnam veteran bonus list, which documented Vietnam service, were invited to participate based on their self-reported exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. Screening of military and medical records was performed by an epidemiologist and a physician to assure that Agent Orange exposure was possible based on job description, location of service in Vietnam, and military Agent Orange spray records. Elevated 2,3,7,8-TCDD levels, over 20 ppt on a lipid basis, could still be detected in six of the 50 veterans in this nonrandomly selected group. The dioxin and dibenzofuran congeners commonly found in the U.S. population, including TCDD, were also detected in the three pooled semen samples. Quantification and comparison on a lipid basis were not possible due to low lipid concentrations where levels were below the detection limit. Therefore, semen samples were measured and reported on a wet-weight basis. Elevated blood TCDD levels, probably related to Agent Orange exposure, can be detected between two and three decades after potential exposure in some American veterans. Original levels were estimated to be 35-1,500-fold greater that that of the general population (4 ppt, lipid) at the time of exposure. In addition, the detection of dioxins in semen suggests a possible mechanism for male-mediated adverse reproductive outcomes following Agent Orange or other dioxin exposure.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic Acid / analysis
  • 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic Acid / blood
  • 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid / analysis
  • 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid / blood
  • Adult
  • Agent Orange
  • Benzofurans / analysis
  • Benzofurans / blood
  • Defoliants, Chemical / analysis
  • Defoliants, Chemical / blood
  • Dioxins / analysis*
  • Dioxins / blood
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Lipids / analysis
  • Lipids / blood
  • Male
  • Michigan
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Pilot Projects
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / analysis
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / analysis
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / blood
  • Semen / chemistry*
  • Teratogens / analysis
  • United States
  • Veterans*
  • Vietnam


  • Benzofurans
  • Defoliants, Chemical
  • Dioxins
  • Lipids
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • Teratogens
  • 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid
  • Agent Orange
  • dibenzofuran
  • 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic Acid
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls