A publication of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

February 2000/March 2000

President’s Message

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 exposure.

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.



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