[sixties-l] Study Links Vietnamese, High Dioxin

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Thu May 17 2001 - 05:27:08 EDT

  • Next message: radman: "[sixties-l] Bob Kerrey And The Crime Of Vietnam: Will We Learn?"

    May 14, 2001

    Study Links Vietnamese, High Dioxin


    Thirty years after the U.S. military stopped spraying the defoliant Agent
    Orange, a new study by American researchers shows the level of dioxin in
    the bloodstreams of some Vietnamese remains ``alarmingly high.''

    Public health researchers say residents of Bien Hoa City in south Vietnam
    show dioxin levels as much as 135 times higher than in residents in Hanoi,
    Vietnam's capital hundreds of miles to the north where the defoliant was
    not sprayed.

    Bien Hoa was a major U.S. air force base and important chemical depot
    during the Vietnam War.

    Most disturbingly, they said, some of the affected residents did not live
    in Bien Hoa during the war and others are children born many years after
    the war ended, indicating they were recently exposed to a persistent source
    of contamination.

    Agent Orange exposure has been associated with cancer, birth defects and
    miscarriages, although a direct link to those health problems remains unproven.

    The results are published in the Tuesday issue of the Journal of
    Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

    Agent Orange has long been a knotty dilpmatic subject for both nations.
    These latest results appear during a particularly tense juncture as
    Congress delays ratifying a trade pact with Hanoi and amid revelations that
    former Sen. Bob Kerry conducted a raid in which 13 civilians were killed.

    But scientists said today's politics should not overshadow the study's
    striking findings.

    ``We have a public health crisis for the people living in Bien Hoa City,''
    said Arnold Schecter, the study's lead author and an environmental
    scientist at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas.

    ``These are the highest levels we've seen since 1973 after Agent Orange
    spraying was stopped,'' said Schecter, who has worked in Vietnam since
    1984. ``I have never seen children born after the spraying with levels so

    Other public health researchers who did not participate in the study said
    Agent Orange remains a tragic legacy of the war that cannot be ignored.
    They said the problem probably is confined to a handful of dioxin
    ``hotspots'' that could be surveyed and cleaned up with adequate funding.

    ``Although wishful thinkers might have assumed the problem would go away
    over time, that data indicate that for some populations the exposure
    continues,'' said Michael Gochfeld of the University of Medicine and
    Dentistry of New Jersey.

    Between 1962 and 1971, U.S. military tanker planes and helicopters sprayed
    20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other defoliants in Operation Ranch
    Hand to deny cover to insurgent Communist forces.

    The defoliants were contaminated with TCDD, the most dangerous form of dioxin.

    Soldiers on both sides, as well as local residents, were drenched by the
    sweet-smelling herbicide. Today, thousands of American servicemen and their
    families receive disability benefits for health problems related to Agent

    Among Vietnam's 76 million people, more than 1 million are believed to be
    disabled, including 150,000 children.

    In many places, the Vietnamese countryside has not rebounded from the
    defoliant, but the environmental damage is not uniform.

    Bien Hoa, located near Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) was one of the
    biggest Agent Orange stockpiles. In the late 1960s, more than 7,500 gallons
    of the defoliant spilled there.

    Schecter reports at least two sediment and soil samples from the area
    showed TCDD levels as high as 600,000 parts per trillion. In the United
    States, he said, government cleanups have been ordered for levels as low as
    1,000 ppt.

    Throughout Vietnam, more than 2,400 blood samples collected by the Red
    Cross showed the TCDD levels in humans typically runs about 2 ppt. In Bien
    Hoa, TCDD levels in 20 people sampled peaked at 271 ppt, and were higher
    than normal in each case, Schecter said.

    Left unproven is how the dioxin worked its way into humans. Schecter
    suspects it accumulates in the fatty tissues of fish and water fowl, both
    of which are important local food sources. Vietnam has not allowed Schecter
    to analyze food samples.

    Even without those laboratory results, Schecter and other epidemiologists
    say they recommend supplying residents near the Bien Hoa hotspot with clean
    food and water. Then, contaminated sediments and soils can be removed.

    Scientists said the hotspot could serve as a test bed for public health
    programs and new cleanup technologies. It also could be useful in finding
    American servicemen and Vietnamese emigrants who were exposed during the
    war, they said.

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri May 18 2001 - 03:07:54 EDT