---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 03 Mar 2002 16:48:28 -0800
From: radtimes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Vietnam blood dioxin levels startling - US expert
Vietnam blood dioxin levels "startling" - US expert
Story by David Brunnstrom
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
VIETNAM: March 4, 2002
HANOI - A leading expert on the Vietnam War defoliant Agent Orange said
last week new tests on people living in a heavily sprayed part of Vietnam
had found "startlingly high" levels of cancer-causing dioxin.
However, speaking ahead of a key conference on the effects of Agent Orange
beginning in Hanoi on Sunday, Arnold Schecter said tests on Vietnamese food
exports to the United States had shown generally lower dioxin levels than
in U.S. products, despite claims to the contrary from opponents of
Schecter, a professor at the School of Public Health at the University of
Texas, told Reuters blood tests from 43 people living around the former
U.S. airbase of Bien Hoa, near Ho Chi Minh City, had found dioxin levels up
to 206 times higher than average.
He said one person tested, who was born in 1973, two years after U.S.
forces stopped spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam, had 413 parts per trillion
of TCDD, the dioxin characteristic of Agent Orange. This compared with two
parts per trillion on average in Vietnam.
The Bien Hoa tests showed an average of 67 parts per trillion - still 33
times higher than average, Schecter said.
"This means 30-40 years after Agent Orange was sprayed, people are still
being contaminated," he said. "This shows Agent Orange is not just a
historic event, but something that is still with us in hotspots like Bien Hoa."
"It means dioxin can persist a very long time in the environment and in
certain cases contaminate people and in others substantially contaminate
MILLIONS OF GALLONS SPRAYED
The United States sprayed millions of gallons of Agent Orange and other
defoliants on Vietnam from 1962 to 1971 to deny communist fighters jungle
cover. The chemicals included TCDD, the most dangerous form of dioxin, a
It is also blamed for causing immune deficiency, birth defects,
reproductive problems, diabetes and nervous system disorders.
Schecter said the most likely form of contamination of those at Bien Hoa
was river fish.
He said some opponents of Vietnamese seafood exports to the United States
had used the Agent Orange issue to try to scare off American consumers from
However, tests for the University of Texas on 20 samples of Vietnamese fish
bought in Texas and California found dioxin levels that were generally
lower than U.S. food products.
For example, he said, one Vietnamese catfish sample showed just 0.01 parts
per trillion. "These are very low levels."
Schecter said the tests suggested Hanoi's fear that allowing food samples
to be taken for testing abroad could damage key exports was misplaced,
given that only five percent of the country was ever sprayed with Agent Orange.
"That means that most food is not contaminated with dioxin," he said, while
adding that there were an unknown number of Agent Orange "hotspots" like
Bien Hoa in Vietnam.
After Agent Orange was found to cause cancer in laboratory rats, the U.S.
military suspended its use in 1970 and halted all herbicide spraying in
Vietnam the following year.
Vietnam's government blames defoliants for causing tens of thousands of
birth defects and says the United States should pay compensation. The
United States has long argued there is no scientific evidence linking Agent
Orange to the birth defects.
Sunday's conference, co-organised by the United States and Vietnam, will
review current research on the impact of dioxin on human health and on the
environment and discuss research plans.
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