A Quarterly Newsletter for and about International Cooperation with Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Cuba.
Volume 9, Issue 4   Fall 1999

Agent Orange Update US and Vietnam

Veterans and Birth Defects

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported in September that a Veterans Administration study of nearly 4,000 female Vietnam veterans — and an equal number of female veterans who did not serve in Vietnam — found about 50 percent more birth defects in the Vietnam group. Most striking was the finding that for women serving who were not nurses, the risk of serious birth defects to their children was 160% percent greater than in the comparison group. In all women who served the risk of severe birth defects was 46% greater than the general population.

Nearly twenty years ago the US Air Force began a study of male veterans that found comparable rates of birth defects in the children of veterans who sprayed Agent Orange and other herbicides in Vietnam.

Based on the results of the study, the VA's Agent Orange Task Force is recommending that children of female Vietnam veterans who have disabling birth defects receive compensation. Since 1991, Vietnam veterans who have credible evidence that health conditions are related to exposure to Agent Orange can apply for compensation.


Le Cao Dai Visits US in November

Dr. Le Cao Dai visited the US in November sponsored by Dr. Arnold Schecter, now Professor of Environmental Sciences at the School of Public Health at the University of Texas, at Dallas. Dr. Dai is one of Vietnam's leading investigators on dioxins and is now Director of the Vietnam Agent Orange Victims Fund of Veitnam's Red Cross. Dr. Dai was keynote speaker at the American Public Health Association meeting in Chicago for the Vietnam Caucus, was interviewed by the Voice of America, met with Sen. Tom Daschle's aide to discuss new funding for Agent Orange research in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and gave talks at the University of Texas Health Science Centers in Houston and in Dallas. He also was videotaped for an oral history presentation at the Vietnam Archives of the Vietnam Center in Lubbock Texas. He also met with Vietnam Veterans of America president Bobby Muller and his coworkers.

Arnold Schecter can be reached via e-mail at arnold.schecter@email.swmed.edu

New Evidence of Contamination

Last year, the Hatfield Group, a Canadian environmental consulting firm, completed a four-year study in the A Luoi valley. These ecologists and chemists found, measured, and documented unexpectedly high levels of TCDD (a dioxin) in the soil, food, and blood of the ethnic minorities who live in the A Luoi valley. The A Luoi valley was chosen because other chemicals, such as pesticides, could not confound measurements of TCDD. The ethnic minorities who live there are too poor to afford pesticides. .

As much as 1000 parts per trillion of TCDD were measured in the soil, near a former Special Forces base (A Sau) nearly 30 years after Agent Orange spraying had terminated. This discovery is astounding news to many American scientists who have long believed that TCDD is not that persistent in its potency.

The levels of TCDD, which the Hatfield scientists found in the soil, would result in portions of the A Luoi valley being declared as hazardous-waste sites, if these areas were in the US or Canada. However, the valley's inhabitants cannot afford to move. In fact, the valley is advertised as a "free economic zone," a place where destitute people from the cities try to find a better life because the land is relatively cheap.

The Hatfield scientists are, by some accounts, the first western scientists to lend credibility to what Vietnamese scientists have suggested for the past 30 years that there's a causal connection between the continual exposure to the TCDD in Agent Orange and the epidemic proportions of birth defects, cancers, and other serious health problems suffered by Vietnamese people who have been exposed to this toxin for nearly 40 years.

Excerpt from "Historic floods and the legacy Agent Orange in Vietnam", an article by Greg Gianas

In this issue ...
Agent Orange Update
Cuba Pages
Debt Relief and the Economic Crisis
Vietnam Women's Union Hosts Energy Training
What Happened to the Trade Agreement
The Legacy of the Khmer Rouge
Conference Report III

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