---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 04 Mar 2002 14:49:10 -0800
From: radtimes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Key Conference on Agent Orange Opens in Hanoi
Key Conference on Agent Orange Opens in Hanoi
HANOI -- U.S. and Vietnamese government scientists and international experts
gathered in Hanoi on Sunday for a key meeting on the effects of the toxic
Vietnam war defoliant agent Orange.
The three-day conference will look at what is known about the effects of the
Agent Orange and its major contaminants--highly poisonous disjoins -- and
consider future research needs.
The issue is a tricky one for the United States, which has faced
compensation demands from both Hanoi and U.S. veterans for exposure to the
toxic defoliants sprayed to deny Communist soldiers jungle cover during the
Vietnam war that ended in 1975.
U.S. forces sprayed millions of gallons of agent Orange and other defoliants
on Vietnam from 1962 to 1971. Spraying was halted after it was discovered
that agent Orange, which contained the disking TH.D., caused cancer in rats.
The U.S. government says it hopes the conference will lead to a more precise
understanding of the effects of herbicides and other toxic chemicals in
Vietnam, with which it normalized ties in 1995.
But it stressed it is not about to entertain compensation claims from
"U.S. Vietnam-relations were normalized in 1995 after Vietnam dropped claims
war reparations/compensation," a U.S. embassy statement said. "At the time
of normalization, neither compensation nor reparations were granted or
contemplated for the future."
Asked if this situation could change in the future depending on the outcome
of more research, a U.S. embassy spokesman said: "I think the statement
speaks for itself."
--- Lobbying by Veterans ---
The Hanoi conference came about after intense lobbying in the United States
by the Vietnam veterans of America, which would like to see more
compensation for members who have fallen sick after exposure to agent
orange, and assistance to Vietnamese victims.
"The Vietnam veterans of America have pushed for over 20 years to make this
happen," VVA President Thomas Cory told Reuters in Hanoi. "We have to get
the research started and move from there."
More than 100,000 veterans have asked the U.S. veterans administration for
help for illnesses they feel are associated with Vietnam war service. Only
7,500 are receiving assistance.
Vietnam estimates that more than a million of its people were exposed to
agent Orange and says it is to blame for tens of thousands of birth defects.
Washington argues the scientific evidence is inconclusive and says the
conference is aimed at filling holes in research so far.
"One of the issues that has always been a concern in trying to start a
research program is understanding what the Vietnamese already know about the
environmental and health effects," said conference chairman Christopher
Portier of the U.S. government's national institute of environmental health
"Much of the research is unpublished and we hear about it in sketchy pieces
and parts," Portier said.
Observers say conclusive research could have far reaching and expensive
consequences in terms of compensation claims for the United States and the
Agent Orange makers, Dow Chemical Co. and Monsanto Co.
A group of 20,000 U.S. veterans sued the two firms in 1999 and eventually
won a $180 million judgement.
Agent Orange exposure is also an issue for veterans from other countries who
served in Vietnam, including South Koreans, Australians, Thais and New
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