Friday, January 30, 2015

Bacteria enlisted for Passaic River cleanup

Federal officials have approved a pilot project to determine whether bacteria can eliminate cancer-causing dioxin and other pollutants in the Passaic River.
Scientists plan to take samples from the river this spring and test their method in a laboratory. If the results are promising, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may allow them to conduct tests in the river itself.
Federal officials said the testing will not affect their plans for a $1.7 billion cleanup involving dredging part of the river. "In my mind this is a separate and distinct endeavor," said Ray Basso, the EPA project manager for the Passaic River. "We think this has promise, but we don't see it as a magic bullet."
The scientists work for two of the companies responsible for paying for the dredging, which would be one of the most expensive cleanups in U.S. history.
More than a century of industrialization along the Passaic has left dioxin, PCBs, mercury and other pollutants throughout 17 miles of the river, from Newark Bay to the Dundee Dam in Garfield.
The EPA unveiled a plan in April for "bank-to-bank" dredging of the river's lower eight miles, which contain the greatest concentration of industrial pollution. About 4.3 million cubic yards of sediment — enough to fill MetLife Stadium twice — would be scooped out. A cap would be placed over the remaining pollution.
The agency is not expected to finalize the plan until the end of the year.
Many of the 100 companies that polluted the river or inherited the liability of past polluters have been trying to persuade the EPA to choose a cheaper plan.
The bacteria test is being funded by Maxus Energy Corp. of Texas and Tierra Solutions Inc. of East Brunswick. The two companies inherited the liability of the former Diamond Alkali plant in Newark, where workers dumped dioxin into the river while making Agent Orange, the cancer-causing defoliant, during the Vietnam War.
Trying a technique called bioremediation, scientists will introduce carbon into the contaminated sediment as a food source, to increase the number of microbes. The microbes in turn could eat the pollutants, digest them and excrete harmless material.


Dioxin concerns - tests for carcinogens in Oroville have troubling results
The soil around South Oroville is tainted by cancer-causing chemicals. That’s according to recent studies by local scientists concerned about dioxins left over from the Pacific Oroville Power Inc. (POPI) facility there. Some of the samples show levels so high they would make the World Health Organization shudder.
Of five local samples tested, one was determined to have 1,000 parts per trillion (PPT), far beyond the WHO’s 40 PPT level of concern. Another was found to have 170 PPT, while results for three others range from 4.4 to 32 PPT. Dioxins are a carcinogen that can cause reproductive problems and other human health problems.
The tests were triggered by the discovery of dioxins in the ash created by the operations of the POPI plant, which first fired up in the 1980s and created energy by burning timber waste—wood chips created by the downing of trees. But in the 1990s, as the timber industry died down in Northern California, the plant began burning urban waste—the remains of torn down buildings, which included asbestos, lead and other potentially environment-damaging materials.
Geologist John Lane gathers soil samples

When the Butte County District Attorney’s Office learned of the practice, it began testing the ash that resulted. High levels of dioxins were discovered. POPI was owned and operated by a New Jersey-based company called Covanta. The company stopped its Oroville operations in 2012 and was named in a lawsuit by a number of communities where such plants operated, including Butte County. Last year, the suit was settled with the local DA’s office collecting $186,000 of an $825,000 overall settlement.
Dioxins in the region may also have come from the nearby and now-closed Koppers wood treatment plant, which had major fires in 1963 and 1987 that resulted in dioxin-laden smoke and ash drifting across the area.
The soil tests are being paid for by both the DA’s office and the Butte Environmental Council (BEC) through a sub-group called the Oroville Dioxin Education Committee (ODEC). The soil samples and their location determinations are being organized by John Lane, the geologist who owns and operates Chico Environmental Science and Planning. Lane conducted the initial ash testing that revealed the presence of dioxins.

People-to-people exchanges crucial to VN-US rapprochement
The cooperation between Vietnamese and US nationals plays a crucial component in the normalisation of relations between the two countries, according to outcomes from a forum held in Hanoi on January 27.
The forum is part of activities to mark the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
According to Vice President of the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) Marsha Four, people-to-people relationships are fundamental to increasing mutual understanding between the two countries.
The forum created opportunities for participants to review coordination programmes and initiatives from recent years, and to seek new ways to propel multi-faceted cooperation between Vietnam and the US within the framework of their comprehensive partnership, said Chairman of the Vietnam-US Association Nguyen Tam Chien.
Participants agreed that over the past two decades, Vietnam and the US have seen positive developments across politics and security, trade and investment, interpersonal exchange, education and the environment. Notably, trade between the two nations exceeded US$30 billion in 2014, 130 times that of 1994.
They reviewed the implementation of programmes and initiatives to address the aftermath of war in Vietnam , such as unexploded ordnances and Agent Orange (AO)/Dioxin contamination.
They noted that Vietnam and the US are collaborating on a dioxin clean up at the Danang Airport , a known dioxin ‘hot spot’ with high levels of soil contamination, while enacting measures to support AO/dioxin victims.
The Vietnamese Government has established a steering committee to address bomb and mine consequences and allocated significant funding to disarming unexploded ordnances and supporting victims.
However, with large contaminated surface areas and financial shortages, Vietnam hopes to receive more human, financial and technical support from global partners, including the US , to address these concerns.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hush Money!

Monsanto offers $150,000 to improve gender equality, education for Vietnam's rural children
The U.S. group Monsanto and the US.-based Room to Read has announced a cooperation program worth VND3.2 billion (roughly US$150,000) to improve education and gender equality for children of farmers in Vietnam. The Monsanto group is a giant in the agriculture business while Room to Read is an international non-government organization operating in the field of offering education support.

The joint program of the two organizations is expected to help improve the ability and love of reading among students at the elementary level through the establishment of libraries and book publishers.
It will also help give secondary education to hundreds of girls and equip them with necessary life kills.
The partnership will be extended from northern Vietnam (Thai Nguyen province) to the central region (Binh Dinh province) and the southern region (Long An and Tra Vinh provinces). So far Vietnam has successfully implemented the universalization of elementary education and is trying its best to reduce gender inequality. However, in more remote areas, especially in areas where ethnic minority people live, the situation has not improved radically, so cooperation between many organizations, individuals and societies is needed to improve it.
The funding from Monsanto Fund will be divided into two programs: one for educational support for school girls and the other for language training for elementary students.
Specifically, the language program for elementary students will be implemented through the building of reading skills and love for reading for more than 60,000 primary students, and the establishment of eight libraries and publication of two books intended for children.
Meanwhile, the educational assistance program for school girls will provide about 175 school girls from low-income farming families with financial support, means for studying, training on life skills, and vocational orientation training.
Education is a particularly important work, so the program is committed to supporting farmers and their families to improve their lives as well as helping their children to have access to education, according to Mr. Juan Farinati, Monsanto vice president for Asia Pacific.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Agent Orange Town Hall Meeting SATURDAY

January 24, 2015
Martinsburg, West Virginia
10 am-3 pm
National Guard Armory
2096 Kelly Island Road
Martinsburg, West Virginia 25405
Contact Sonya Brown: 304-620-8310

Advancing Research for Neurological Diseases Act Introduced!
The 114th Congress is off to an exciting start and we hope you are ready to advocate! To start the new year, we have some great news!

On January 13, Representatives Michael Burgess (R-TX) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced H.R. 292, the Advancing Research for Neurological Diseases Act of 2015.

H.R. 292 will create a national data collection system at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) focused on neurological diseases, including Parkinson's disease. It is estimated that between 500,000 to 1.5 million Americans are living with Parkinson's, but the truth is we do not have accurate information on how many people are living with the disease and what causes the disease. This lack of core knowledge inhibits Parkinson's research, programs, and services. Learn more.

The Parkinson's Action Network (PAN) strongly supports this legislation. Similar legislation passed unanimously in the House of Representatives in 2010 but stalled in the Senate - we believe this is the year we'll be successful but we need your help!

Ask your Representative to co-sponsor H.R. 292, the Advancing Research for Neurological Diseases Act of 2015!

* You may personalize your message by typing in the text box. Do not worry about changing the line that begins Dear [[Recipient's Title and Name]]. The system automatically adds your Representative's information before your message is sent.

Parkinson’s Data Collection Bill Introduced!
The Parkinson’s Action Network (PAN) is excited to announce that the Advancing Research for Neurological Diseases Act of 2015 has been introduced by Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R-TX) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
1-14-15The bill will create a data collection system at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and other neurological disorders.
This system at the CDC would provide data on the epidemiology, incidence, and prevalence of this progressive, neurodegenerative disease. Better data would allow for future planning of health care needs, detect changes in health practices, assess disease burden, promote education about neurological diseases, and support a wide range of research initiatives.
Now, PAN needs your help to ensure this legislation gets support in the House.
Ask your Representative to co-sponsor H.R. 292, the Advancing Research for Neurological Diseases Act of 2015! Take Action!
Read the legislation. Read our support letter.
Read Rep. Burgess’ press release.
Read PAN’s press release.

Panel verifies Agent Orange exposure
Retired Air Force Reserve Maj. Wes Carter almost didn’t travel to Washington D.C. this month where, to his surprise, he heard an independent panel of scientists verify what he had dogged the Air Force and Department of Veterans Affairs about for almost four years.
The Institute of Medicine said Carter and up to 2,100 other former reserve air crewmen and maintainers of C-123 aircraft, flown for a decade after the Vietnam War, were indeed exposed to toxic residue from Agent Orange herbicide sprayed from some of the same aircraft during the war.
The IOM also found it plausible that exposure “exceeded health guidelines for workers in enclosed settings. Thus, some reservists quite likely experienced non-trivial increases in their risks of adverse health outcomes.”
Retired Air Force Reserve Maj. Wes Carter
The findings likely mean that VA will find more of these reservists eligible for VA medical care and disability compensation if they suffer from one of 14 ailments presumed to be caused by Agent Orange.
Dr. Ralph L. Erickson, VA director of Pre-9/11-Era Post-Deployment Health, said Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson and other senior staff were briefed on IOM findings before public release.  A “technical work group” of scientists, physicians and experts on VA regulations and benefits held the first of a series of meetings to review and interpret the report and make recommendations to VA Secretary Bob McDonald.
Erickson noted it was VA that ordered the IOM study and it welcomes the findings “because the better we understand environmental issues, the better we’re able to care for these veterans.”
The IOM findings reflect a deeper understanding of how dioxin contamination on interior surfaces of these aircraft behaved, he said.
“Though we thought before — and this certainly was the Air Force position — that a dry residue was rock solid and it wasn’t going anywhere and it wouldn’t be available to contaminate a crew member, there’s now science available that leads us to understand that, in fact, there is this dynamic equilibrium of the solid residue with the air above the residue…”
Bottom line, it seems, is the VA accepts the possibility that Agent Orange residue could have become airborne and harmed reservists.
Carter said he found VA and Air Force officials more close-minded during a four-year slough to try to win Agent Orange-related care and disability compensation for crews and maintainers who were assigned to reserve squadrons that operated at three bases from 1972 to 1982.

Ill, fatigued and in chronic pain, Carter said he fell victim to dark moments after IOM last fall delayed release of its report by three months. Carter worried that if IOM decided against the crewmen and their claims, he might not be strong enough to continue the fight.
Since 2011, Carter has led an intense bureaucratic battle with his parent service and VA, writing scores of letters, compiling scientific records and internal reports from multiple agencies, contacting news media, creating a C-123 Veterans Association website and blog to explain what the latest evidence showed and how former crewmen were suffering, and posting all documents online for scientists and the public to study.
Carter, now 68, did all this having nothing to gain personally. He has been rated 100-percent disabled since 1990 when he suffered spinal injuries in a fall off an Army truck on the last day of the Persian Gulf War.
But Carter also has three illnesses tied to Agent Orange.

Post-Vietnam Dioxin Exposure in Agent Orange–Contaminated C-123 Aircraft
Between 1972 and 1982, approximately 1,500 to 2,100 U.S. Air Force (AF) Reserve personnel trained and worked on C-123 aircraft that previously had been used to spray herbicides, including Agent Orange (AO), during Operation Ranch Hand (ORH) in the Vietnam War. Samples taken from these aircraft show the presence of AO residues. However, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) considers AF Reservists who served in ORH C-123s ineligible for health care and disability coverage under the Agent Orange Act of 1991.
The VA asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to evaluate whether service in ORH C-123s could have exposed AF Reservists to herbicide residues at levels harmful to their health. In Post-Vietnam Dioxin Exposure in Agent Orange–Contaminated C-123 Aircraft, an expert IOM committee performs a qualitative assessment based on the science and evidence available. The committee’s key findings are summarized in this report.
READ the Report for FREE

Monday, January 19, 2015

Agent Orange report comes after years of VA denials
A new Institute of Medicine report that found veterans were exposed to Agent Orange while flying in C-123 aircraft after the Vietnam War came three years after another federal agency reached a similar conclusion.
But despite a pronouncement in January 2012 by the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry that these crews' levels of exposure to dioxin were 182 times higher than acceptable amounts, representing a 200-fold risk for cancer, the Veterans Affairs Department refused to acknowledge any link between the veterans' current illnesses and a history of serving on that aircraft.
Instead, VA public health officials insisted that trace amounts of dioxin on internal aircraft surfaces were not "biologically available for skin absorption or inhalation because dioxin is not water- or sweat-soluble and does not give off airborne particles."
Meanwhile, since veterans found out in 2011 they may have been exposed, at least 10 with diseases associated with Agent Orange have had VA disability claims denied and some have died — although just how many have passed away as a result of exposure-related illnesses is difficult to pin down, said retired Air Force Maj. Wes Carter, founder of the C-123 Veterans Association.
Carter said that between 1,500 and 2,100 veterans flew the aircraft, used during the Vietnam War to spray the highly toxic defoliant and then kept in service for almost a decade after the conflict. He said his association knows of fewer than a handful of veterans whose claims have been approved, including just one who triumphed without having to file an appeal.
"[The numbers] are terribly vague. We scattered decades ago, and unlike many Navy folks, had no ship's association to keep us in touch. ... We want to simply say that there has been death and suffering," said Carter, a C-123 medical services officer who is among those whose claims were denied.
VA's fight to deny health treatment and claims to what may amount to a small number of former service members comes as no surprise to veterans organizations and lawmakers who have pushed VA for years to recognize certain environmental exposures.

A vet's long and winding road
On a gray January afternoon, Vietnam-era veteran Peter Sajta lay on a hospital bed inside a dark bedroom of his family's home near Amsterdam. His wife, JoAnn, gently helped him up and guided him on a slow journey to their dining room table.
"I've been through hell," Peter Sajta mumbled to a visitor.
Gruff and sensitive, Sajta grew up fixing race cars at his uncle's junkyard in Montgomery County. He graduated from Amsterdam High School in 1964 and, four days later, joined the Navy.
Sajta's slender 125-pound frame allowed him to fit into tight spaces where most others couldn't. While assigned to Clark Air Base in the Philippines in April 1967, it was Sajta's duty to crawl into Air Force bombers to repair fuel bladders that carried Agent Orange, an herbicide used by the military that was later found to contain dioxin, a toxic chemical contaminant known to cause cancer, damage the immune system and disrupt hormones. Sajta worked days in the steamy "ribs" of C-130s, replacing the holders without protective gear in more than 100-degree heat.
"The tanks I worked on ruptured so all the metal frame parts got wet with Agent Orange," Sajta said. "We had to pull the old bladder out, clean every speck of metal with paper towels. Our uniforms would soak up Agent Orange and you'd be laying in it for hours. The sweat would be unbelievable."
Sajta was honorably discharged in October 1967. More than 50 years after he joined the military, the Navy veteran is disabled with skin cancer and diabetes, while locked in a battle with the government he once served. Sajta wants to spend his final years in the home he and JoAnn bought from his aunt in 1990. For nine years, he's appealed to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for disability benefits because of illnesses attributed to exposure to Agent Orange. A higher disability rating would make Sajta eligible for greater financial assistance, but also other less-known federal benefits, such as access to grants to remodel his 55-year-old home.
Sajta hasn't taken a bath in his home since 2013 because he can no longer get in and out of the tub. Instead, a health aide washes him with a sponge in his bed. The couple want to replace the family's tub with a walk-in bath or shower and move their washer and dryer upstairs from their basement so they can access them.

VA Data Show Disparities In Veteran Benefits Spending
NPR — along with seven public radio stations around the country — is chronicling the lives of America's troops where they live. We're calling the project "Back at Base." This is the first of a three-part series about veteran benefits (Part 2 / Part 3).
If you're a veteran and rely on benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, where you live may have an effect on whether you receive the benefits you've earned.
NPR, together with member stations WBUR, Lakeshore Public Radio and KUOW, looked at data from 3,000 counties nationwide, and found there's a huge variation in coverage from state to state — and even within a state — on how much the VA spends per veteran.
We also found there's no obvious pattern. And there's no strong association between spending per Veterans' benefits cover a wide range, including health care, monthly disability checks, home loans, life insurance, and education through the GI bill, among others.
Among the states, West Virginia and Arkansas had the highest per-veteran spending in 2013 — just over $7,600. Indiana, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania had the lowest — less than $5,000. Nationally, the average is just over $6,000. That's after filtering out things like costs to build and operate VA facilities.
When looking specifically at health benefit spending, calculating the amount of spending per "patient" — with a patient being a veteran who gets health benefits — there's a wide variation that doesn't fit discernible patterns.
For example, spending is nearly $30,000 per patient in San Francisco, and less than $7,000 per patient in Lubbock, Texas. Nationally, the average is just under $10,000. In places where more veterans are enrolled in VA health benefit plans, spending per veteran did tend to be higher.