Agent Orange, Vietnam's Unfinished Research

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For almost 40 years, the US Government has resisted supporting Vietnam Veterans and Vietnamese who have developed diseases because of their exposure to Agent Orange. The National Science Foundation says that there is no research to prove the effects of the carcinogen. The article, Agent Orange, Vietnam's Unfinished Research, provides an overview of the Agent Orange issue and offers a research strategy.

The ghosts of the Vietnam War still haunt us. From 1965 to 1971, an estimated 11 million gallons of Agent Orange with dioxin were sprayed on Vietnam. Not only did this carcinogenic herbicide kill vegetation, it also poisoned 2.6 million United States veterans, the children of these U.S. veterans, and millions of Vietnamese and their children.

It was not until 1991 that the U.S. Veterans Administration was forced by Congress to admit a service connection between exposure to Agent Orange and to over 30 kinds of cancer. In 1996, a genetic birth defect, spina bifida, was hesitantly added to the VA disability list. Leukemia and diabetes are now part of the Agent Orange legacy. Last year, conferences held at Yale University, Stockholm, and Hanoi brought to light new data and research issues in the Agent Orange debate. Researchers have begun to establish a correlation between Agent Orange and mental illness, Hodgkin’s Disease, and cancer.

Ask any veteran who has had to deal with the Agent Orange issue and he or she will tell you about how the U.S. government has been either non-cooperative or complicit in trying to silence the persistent moans heard from this ghost.

It is now time to act. Recent research is now available to justify a major epidemiological study of America’s Vietnam veterans. Agent Orange was only sprayed on South Vietnam, excluding North Vietnam. This affords an excellent opportunity to compare the health of the two areas.

In the National Academy of Science Agent Orange Report for 2003, the Academy admits that “the lack of adequate data on Vietnam veterans themselves makes it difficult to reach conclusions about increased risk of disease among Vietnam veterans.”

Promoting Enduring Peace, a non-profit organization, published a July 2002 ”Vietnam Report from HOA BINH” that stated that thousands of children are being born with terrible defects and disabilities to include mental illness, fatal heart ailments, spina bifida, and many cancers. What these children have in common is a parent, or both parents, who were exposed to Agent Orange.

The cover-up continues. The VA is not only denying that Agent Orange is a major contributor to the diseases that the children of Vietnam veterans have, but is also violating Federal law that requires veterans be assisted. In April 2003, Donald Stout, Regional Director of Veteran’s Affairs, Oakland, in a letter to Mr. Dodge, stated that “we are not obligated to furnish the records (you) requested under the Veterans Claims Assistance Act of 2000.” This VA denial for support is in-spite of Federal Regulations Title 38 that states the “VA will make reasonable efforts to help a claimant obtain evidence necessary to substantiate the claim.”

It is now time for the VA to initiate a study of all those exposed to Agent Orange, Vietnam veterans and their children, as well as Vietnamese and their children. It is for the children that a nation goes to war. It is for the children that a nation seeks peace. It is for all children exposed to Agent Orange that we seek justice. Yes, Agent Orange is America’s weapon of mass destruction.

C.W. Brown, PhD, is an independent scientist and consultant to the non-profit Promoting Enduring Peace, an organization researching the effects of AgentOrange(http://www.pepeace.org).

William Dodge, is a disabled Vietnam veteran and parent of a child with mental illness, and is editor of his daughter’s book, SugarStory, about her illness.(http://www.SugarStory.com).

By C.W. Brown, PhD and William Dodge

Special from the Iconoclast

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