February 2000/March 2000
The Truth About Agent Orange
By George C. Duggins
Nineteen million gallons of herbicides were sprayed by U.S. forces in South
Vietnam between 1962 and 1971.
The EPA says there is no safe level of exposure to dioxin. It is a cancer
hazard to people, and exposure to dioxin also can cause severe reproductive and
developmental problems, immune system damage, and can interfere with regulatory
hormones. Soft tissue sarcoma, prostate cancer, spina bifida, learning
disabilities, and peripheral neuropathy have all been linked to Agent Orange
Since its founding in 1979, VVA has been at the forefront of the battle to
secure just compensation and treatment for Vietnam veterans and their families
who suffer from the contamination effects of dioxin, one of the most toxic
substance ever synthesized.
We have pushed for full implementation of VVA Resolution AO-14-99, National
Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Funding for 10-80 Committee. That
resolution calls for $50 million to fund health-related research into the
effects of Agent Orange/dioxin in Vietnam. The resolution states: ``The best
laboratory for research on the environment and health risks associated with
Agent Orange/dioxin contamination is Vietnam.’’
VVA’s National Agent Orange/Dioxin Committee has long pushed for
large-scale studies in Vietnam, which committee chair George Claxton called ``a
natural laboratory for Agent Orange research.’’ The National Task Force for
Health Care and Policy, chaired by Linda Schwartz, has reiterated the importance
of studying the multi-generational effects of dioxin and other herbicides on the
people of Vietnam.
Finally, it looks like some progress is being made. Last month, VVA’s
Veterans Initiative Task Force--led by VVA vice president Tom Corey--returned to
Vietnam, accompanied by Claxton and Schwartz. Although they had in the past
often asked similar questions and had raised similar issues, this time the
answer was different.
Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Singh, director of the Department of the Environment, told
the VVA delegation that his agency will participate in meetings of Vietnamese
and American scientists to develop plans for joint Agent Orange research
projects in Vietnam.
This is extremely encouraging news. Research in Vietnam has the potential to
answer many troubling questions about the health consequences of herbicides.
Solid research has the potential to relieve the suffering of generations of
Vietnamese and the suffering of Vietnam veterans and their children. Research
will allow us to come closer to the truth.