Thursday, April 17, 2014

What Month Is It?
The United States Senate declared April "Parkinson's Awareness Month." By doing so, our elected officials have helped us bring more awareness to a disease that affects between 500,000 and 1.5 million people.
Additionally, April is also the kick-off for PAN's annual fundraising and awareness effort, the Tulip Tribute Garden. Since our launch of this year's Tulip Tribute Garden two weeks ago, many people have honored or remembered their moms, dads, daughters, sons, relatives, and friends who have been affected by Parkinson's disease. You can read their inspiring messages on the Tulip Tribute Garden Wall by clicking here.
You too can be part of this outreach effort. Click here to make a gift of $25, and you can leave a message in honor of or in memory of a loved one on the Tulip Tribute Garden Wall. With a contribution of $60, we will send you or a loved one a tulip-inspired truffle confection. If you donate $250, you will be sent a beautiful bouquet of fresh tulips.
Send your loved one a message of hope, a chocolate truffle gift, or a bouquet of fresh tulips today!
Thank you again for your support. Please be as generous as you can by making a donation of $25, $60, $75, $100, $250, $500, $1,000, or more.Note: Administrative Professional's Day is April 23rd – order your chocolates or tulips by April 18th for the administrative professional in your life.

VA Says Disability Claims Backlog Down Almost by Half Over Last Year
The Department of Veterans Affairs says it lowered the number of pending disability claims from 611,000 in March 2013 to 344,000 a year later, and that decisions are being made 119 days sooner. The VA, which instituted mandatory overtime to help tackle the backlog and was not subject to sequestration furloughs last year, said the backlog is now at its lowest since March 2011. After that the backlog shot up because of the need to re-adjudicate 150,000 previously decided cases involving exposure to the Vietnam-era defoliant, Agent Orange. (Re-adjudication was mandated by court order, but also resulted from the department adding ischemic heart disease, certain leukemias, and Parkinson's disease to the list of conditions presumed to be related to Agent Orange exposure, the VA said.) A sizable backlog remains, however. The White House fiscal 2015 budget request includes $138.7 million in the veterans claims intake program to help expedite claims, and the VA remains under pressure from Congress to do more, with some in Congress heavily critical of VA management. For example a bill was introduced in the House earlier this year that would make it easier to fire or demote VA senior executive service employees or equivalent based on performance. House leaders recently expressed their intent to call that bill to a floor vote soon. A separate bill calls for a five-year ban on SES performance bonuses at the VA.

VA & USAF Defy FOIA – Withheld VA & AF Data Dooms IOM C-123 Study's Scientific Accuracy
An Institute of Medicine investigation of C-123 Agent Orange issues will begin June 16 – but with essential, unclassified VA and USAF data withheld. Although directly relevant to the assignment given IOM by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the committee will not have vital information for their studies. Without all available C-123 information made available to the IOM, their committee report will be fatally flawed, and the affected veterans harmed.
Both VA and AF have relevant, unclassified information about this 60-year old airplane and its Agent Orange history. This information has been improperly refused release to the public in defiance of Freedom of Information Act. Complete and valid requests go back over a year in each case, but they have been ignored.
In stark defiance of the Freedom of Information Act, it is clear that both Departments prefer at least some documents demanded by the veterans not to be released and available to the IOM. Although relief has been sought through the US District Court of Washington D.C. to force release of the materials, there is no possibility of court action before the June 16 workshop. READ MORE:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dioxin exposure and autistic traits?
As promised in a previous post, today I'm turning my attention to the paper by Muneko Nishijo and colleagues [1] and their conclusion of "a specific impact of perinatal TCDD [2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin] on autistic traits in childhood, which is different from the neurotoxicity of total dioxins (PCDDs/Fs) [polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins/furans]".

TCDD @ Wikipedia 
With all the recent chatter about [surrogate] environmental markers and the numbers of cases of autism spectrum disorders and environmental toxicants and autism risk it is indeed timely that the Nishijo paper comes to publication now. Environmental factors, however you wish to define this, are certainly no stranger to autism research, and are fast finding a place in the autism research psyche, perhaps in part due to the rise and rise of the science of epigenetics (see here) as a bridge between genetics and environment. Genes, or rather the blueprint that is your genome, might not necessarily be your destiny and all that jazz...READ MORE:

Veterans' health today, our children and grandchildren tomorrow?
The impact of health issues on the nation’s veterans will in time confront our children and grandchildren in the form of genetically modified organisms (GMO).
The greatest threat to public health is genetically modified organism (GMO) plant production by Monsanto Company (Agent Orange and Bt cotton) and Pfizer, Inc. (Zyklon B. Holocaust gas). Both have research facilities in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta to produce GMO’s.
Our nation’s veterans suffered from the impact of Agent Orange for years before the Veterans Administration acknowledged causation of toxic exposure to dioxin, a defoliant used in Vietnam to kill the jungle like conditions that provided cover for the enemy. The herbicide utilized two chemicals--2, 4-D and 2, 4, 5-T that was linked to a variety of health disorders: headaches, liver and blood disorders, nerve damage, cancer.
Now we know that veterans, who served in Vietnam and were exposed to Agent Orange, had their DNA mutated by exposure to herbicides, and unknowingly passed on genetic mutations to their unborn. Interesting enough the male and female veterans may have children born with spina bifida, but the woman veteran exposed to dioxin may have child with a whole host of different medical conditions supporting genetic mutation.

Institute of Medicine - we need experts' letters of support, or interpretation

from Wes Carter, C-123 Veterans Association

Portland's The Oregonian newspaper posted a hard copy of the complete Environmental Research article about C-123 exposures. The article details the exposure to TCDD by aircrew and maintenance personnel during the decade 1972-1982.
PLEASE: If you have scientists or physician educators who can offer expert comment on this, get them involved. We need support for this article, and for our exposures, before the June 18 Institute of Medicine workshop. As far as I can tell, this is the only juried article.
Against it, VA will use Al Young's C-123 study and the AF Consultative Letter. Neither was juried, and Young's was a simple review of his own conclusions, not new work. The AF Consultative Letter was partly authored by the lead researcher (Lurker) on the Environmental Research piece, showing he did not agree with what the AF did with their science.

Toxic Hitchhikers - Parasites from War Zones

The parasites and diseases of Southeast Asia—most of which are unknown to American physicians—have long worried Vietnam Veterans of America. VVA first expressed concern in 1981, led by Lynda Van Devanter. VVA continued pushing the VA on this issue. Then, in 1999, George Duggins, who served as president from 1997-2001, worked with Bob Maras, who chaired the Veterans Affairs Committee, to convince the VA Undersecretary for Health to incorporate these concerns into a curriculum on parasites and diseases of Southeast Asia as part of the VA’s Veterans Health Initiative. In this article, health writer Claudia Gary examines the dangers to which American men and women serving in Indochina and the Middle East may have been unwittingly exposed.
Veterans of all wars must contend with exotic parasites. These insidious stowaways find human hosts through soil, water, food, or airborne “vectors”—insects such as mosquitoes and sand flies. Although the parasites may be hidden, they can be detected. In some cases, once they are, a cure can be quick and uncomplicated. In other cases, treatment takes time. In still others, the years without detection can create a tragedy.
Parasitic infections are one focus of Tropical Medicine (also called Travel Medicine), an Infectious Disease subspecialty with a history intertwined with war and colonization. Some of these infections—such as leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, and soil-transmitted helminth infections—are termed “neglected tropical diseases.”
Dr. Daniel S. Caplivski, director of the Travel Medicine program at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center, explained that the “neglected” status of many parasitic infections is largely a result of history and economics. “There was a certain amount of investment in treatment and cures when British colonials were getting sick,” Caplivski said. “That’s where Tropical Medicine was born, and that’s where a lot of our knowledge came from. Over the last one hundred years we’ve had limited advances in research and treatment.”
Two of the most devastating and lasting parasitic infections Vietnam veterans have suffered are those caused by mosquito-borne filarial worms and by foodborne liver flukes (Opisthorchis viverrini). Lymphatic filariasis, while generally not fatal, can be disfiguring and debilitating. Liver fluke infection, on the other hand, can go virtually undetected for decades and then cause a deadly cancer, cholangiocarcinoma.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

EPA Proposes Plan to Remove Toxic Sediment from the Passaic River; Largest Cleanup in EPA History Will Protect People’s Health and Create Jobs!OpenDocument
(New York, N.Y.) In an historic action that will protect people’s health and the environment, and benefit riverfront communities, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today proposed a plan to remove 4.3 million cubic yards of highly contaminated sediment from the lower eight miles of the Passaic River in New Jersey. The sediment in the Passaic River is severely contaminated with dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), heavy metals, pesticides and other contaminants from more than a century of industrial activity. The lower eight miles of the Passaic is the most heavily contaminated section of the river. Ninety percent of the volume of contaminated sediments in the lower Passaic are in the lower eight miles of the river.
The EPA is proposing bank-to-bank dredging – one of the largest volumes ever to be dredged under the EPA’s Superfund program – followed by capping of the river bottom.
The proposed plan is based on an extensive seven-year study of the lower eight miles of the river, known as a focused feasibility study, and was developed in consultation with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and with outreach to representatives of the many communities along the lower Passaic River. The study examined the contamination and analyzed options for reducing the risks that the contaminants in this segment of the river pose to people’s health and the environment. The EPA will accept public comments on its proposed plan from April 21 to June 20.

READ MORE:!OpenDocument

US$270 million needed to detoxify Bien Hoa airport

Mr. Le Ke Son holds the lengthy title of Director of the Office of the National Steering Committee on Dealing with the Consequences of Toxic Chemicals Used by the U.S. in the Vietnam War. He says Vietnam has three principal dioxin hot spots - Phu Cat Airport in Binh Dinh Province, Da Nang Airport and Bien Hoa Airport.
Dioxin contamination at the Da Nang airport is currently being treated with thermal absorption technology from the U.S. This project is expected to be completed in 2016. The Bien Hoa and Phu Cat airports are still in the process of selecting the appropriate technology.
Bien Hoa Airport is the most heavily dioxin polluted. This was the location where the herbicide was stored and pumped into planes during the campaigns known as Ranch Hand (1961-1971) and Pacer Ivy (1971-1972). The volume of contaminated soil and sediment here is about 240,000 cubic meters, three times that of Da Nang Airport, and over 30 times more than what Phu Cat Airport has.
Mr. Son says Bien Hoa Airport is testing a technology known as MCD. After trials, the Steering Committee and experts will select the appropriate technology. The Steering Committee is coordinating with the Ministry of Defense and foreign experts to develop the plan to treat dioxin at the airport.

Students connect with Vietnam
Travis Atwater and Jaime Morrill grew up in Irondequoit and are graduating this spring with social work degrees from The College at Brockport.
But their college experience has taken a global turn, with both of them completing their schooling this semester more than 8,300 miles away in Da Nang, Vietnam, as participants in the Brockport Vietnam Program.
The program — established 15 years ago — is unusual in several respects. It is known as the oldest program connecting a college in the United States with Vietnam. And unlike most college study abroad programs, Brockport's program actually has the students work with local population.
In Vietnam, this takes on added importance because of the legacy of bloodshed left by the Vietnam War.
Both Atwater, 28, and Morrill, 23, are too young to have a memory of this war that engulfed Vietnam and divided the American public over the U.S.'s military involvement in this Southeast Asian nation.
The scars of war, however, became readily apparent when, as part of their fieldwork, they conducted their first home visit.
Bedridden was a frail 25-year-old man whose father, according to Atwater, had been exposed to Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant — linked to birth defects, cancer and various disabilities — that was widely sprayed by U.S military aircraft to destroy the jungle foliage that opposition forces used for cover.
"He was like a vegetable on a bed," said Morrill during a recent long-distance interview via Skype with her and Atwater.

‘Poison Spring:’ decades of lax enforcement by the EPA
Many Americans are probably only remotely aware they might have been made vulnerable to a decades-long saturation of their environment by a showering of toxic chemicals on their food crops, with little apparent protection by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Former EPA staffer E.G. Vallianatos, with environmental writer McKay Jenkins, reveals the politics that have delivered us to this place.
Having spent most of his 25-year career (1979-2004) in the EPA’s Office of Pesticides Programs, Vallianatos saw firsthand not only the science that found toxicity in the pesticides Big Agriculture has been applying to crops, but how those discoveries played out within a highly politicized EPA over five presidential administrations.
Vallianatos (the book is written in his first-person voice) cites the case of Cate Jenkins, an EPA scientist who in the early 1990s blew the whistle on what she considered to be Monsanto’s fraudulent claim that exposure to dioxin — “the most toxic chemical ever known to man,” according to the EPA, and a substance Monsanto used in making a wood preservative — did not cause cancer in workers.
The EPA, according to Vallianatos, had relied on Monsanto’s own dioxin studies to determine dioxin’s danger to the community, and Jenkins claimed Monsanto had falsified its results by, among other things, excluding workers with cancer from its studies.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

It's time to make S.1602 happen
Toxic Exposure Research and Military Family Support Act of 2013

It's time to make S.1602 happen

Introduced in Senate (10/29/2013)

Toxic Exposure Research and Military Family Support Act of 2013 - Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to: (1) select a medical center in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to serve as the national center for the diagnosis, treatment, and
research of health conditions of descendents (i.e., a biological child, grandchild, or great-grandchild) of individuals exposed to toxic substances while serving as members of the Armed Forces that are related to that exposure; (2) establish an advisory board to advise the center to determine which health conditions result from exposure to toxic substances and to study and evaluate cases of exposure of current and former members of the Armed Forces to toxic substances; and (3) establish an Office of Extramural Research to conduct research on wounds, illnesses, injuries, and other conditions suffered by active members of
the Armed Forces resulting from exposure to toxic substances and to assist the Advisory Board in considering claims of exposure to toxic substances.
Extends eligibility for medical care and caregiver assistance to descendents of a veteran who was exposed to toxic substances while serving as a member of the Armed Forces if: (1) the descendent has a health condition resulting from exposure to toxic substances and is homebound due to such condition, and (2) the veteran has or had the same health condition.

Authorizes the Secretary of Defense (DOD) to declassify documents (other than documents that would materially and immediately threaten national security) related to any known incident in which not less than 100 member of the Armed Forces were exposed to a toxic substance that resulted in at least one case of disability.
Directs the VA Secretary, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the DOD Secretary to jointly conduct a national outreach and education campaign directed at members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and their family members to communicate information on incidents of exposure to toxic substances, health conditions resulting form such exposure, and the potential long-term effects of such exposure.
 Support S.1602, the Toxic Exposure Research and Military Family Support Act of 2013