Monday, February 8, 2016

Blumenthal Statement on VA Failure to Expand Presumption of Exposure to Agent Orange

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, released the following statement after the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) rejected calls to expand a presumption of exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides to veterans who served offshore and in the harbors of Vietnam.
“Rather than siding with veterans, VA is doubling down on an irrational and inconsistent policy. Young sailors risked their lives during the Vietnam War, unaware that decades later, they and their children and grandchildren would still feel the toxic effects of exposure. Veterans who served offshore and in the harbors of Vietnam were exposed and deserve the presumption of service connection for Agent Orange-related diseases. Since VA either will not or cannot right this wrong on its own, I urge my colleagues to support S.681, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2015, which would ensure all veterans exposed to Agent Orange are compensated.”

EPA Pushed on Records for Enlist Duo Herbicide

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Environmental Protection Agency should release records it generated in approving the Enlist Duo, conservationists say in a federal complaint, noting that new herbicide contains similar toxic ingredients as Agent Orange.
A product of Dow AgroSciences, the herbicide Enlist Duo contains glyphosate dimethylammonium salt and 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid.
While Dow's rivals at Monsanto use the glyphosate ingredient in its weed killer Round Up, the later ingredient was found in the Agent Orange defoliant used during the Vietnam War.
Glyphosate-resistant super weeds have been exploding from overuse of glyphosate on crops genetically engineered to resist the pesticide's effects, so Dow hopes Enlist Duo will fill in the gaps. Once sprayed, the chemical kills all plants except for corn and soybean plants that have been engineered to resist it.
It's been over a year since the EPA approved Enlist Duo for use in six states, and proposed its use in 10 additional states, claiming the herbicide had no effect on more than 50 endangered and threatened species.
The agency reversed course in November 2015, however, after facing legal pressure by environmental groups.
In asking the Ninth Circuit to vacate its approval, the EPA claimed that Dow had provided it with new information, which would require more stringent restrictions in the use of the herbicide by farmers.
Though the Ninth Circuit declined to vacate the order late last month, it told the EPA it could review its own approval.
One of the groups opposing approval of Enlist Duo is the Center for Biological Diversity.
Facing two requests for agency records on Enlist Duo under the Freedom of Information Act, the EPA withheld about 150 records in their entirety, claiming they were attorney-client privileged and exempt from disclosure requirements.
The center filed suit in Washington on Wednesday, contending that EPA officials are "unlawfully withholding" records by "improperly invoking" FOIA exemptions.
"After two years of stalling, sending only heavily redacted records, and ignoring our appeal for information, EPA has left us with no choice but to go to court to obtain the records on this deadly chemical," Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at CBD, said in a statement.
The lawsuit claims the EPA's own risk assessments of Enlist Duo concluded it was risky to birds, mammals and plants, but offered no explanation of benefits that outweighed those risks.

Agent Orange victims in Air Force Reserve now eligible for compensation

Air Force vets and reservists who were exposed to the toxic Agent Orange herbicide during and after the Vietnam War are now eligible for federal compensation for their related illnesses and disabilities, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced.
The VA published a new regulation Thursday, expanding eligibility for benefits related to Agent Orange exposure to “a select group of Air Force Veterans and Air Force Reserve personnel” who were exposed to the cancer-causing herbicide “through regular and repeated contact with contaminated C-123 aircraft that had been used in Vietnam as part of Operation Ranch Hand (ORH).”
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald made the decision to expand benefits following a 2015 report by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine (IOM), commissioned by the department, on Agent Orange exposure in C-123 aircraft.

Agent Orange and me on Life Matters

During the Vietnam War, 80 million litres of Agent Orange and other chemicals were dumped on the jungles of South Vietnam.

“The Most Toxic War in History” – 25 Years Later

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the start of Operation Desert Storm, the combat phase of the Gulf War. Precipitated by Iraq’s invasion and annexation of Kuwait in August 1990, the conflict was the first to see the widespread use of depleted uranium (DU) ammunition. US and UK forces subsequently acknowledged firing a combined 286,000kg of DU – the vast majority of which was fired by US Abrams and M60 tanks, and A10 and Harrier aircraft.
The decision to deploy the radioactive and chemically toxic weapons, which had been under development since the 1950s as a response to Cold War concerns over defeating Soviet armoured divisions, would prove highly contentious in the following years. Once the media and military’s enthusiasm for what was promoted as a new paradigm in high-tech low-casualty warfare began to subside, veterans, journalists and civil society organisations in the US and UK increasingly began to challenge the general conduct of the war, and the use of DU in particular.
This was largely to be expected, and had been anticipated just six months before the conflict in a US military study on the environmental and health risks of DU: “Public relations efforts are indicated, and may not be effective due to the public’s perception of radioactivity. Fielding and combat activities present the potential for adverse international reaction.” Those wishing to continue to use DU weapons recognised that they would need to plan vigorous public relations efforts in order to justify their continued use, a pattern that continues today. Following 1991, this saw DU branded as the “Silver Bullet” – a weapon capable of such astonishing feats, and so militarily important, that any concerns over its potential health or environmental impacts should be disregarded.
“The most toxic war in history”

As increasing numbers of veterans began to report post-deployment health problems in the years that followed, attention began to focus on the overall toxicity of the conflict. From oil fires and pesticides, to the use and disposal of chemical weapons, the Gulf War was increasingly viewed as “the most toxic in history”. Whether it was – conflict pollution had been developing in concert with the mechanisation of warfare and industrialisation throughout the 20th Century, or whether this just represented a growing awareness of the linkages between chemicals and health is a matter of debate. Nevertheless, questions were asked about whether possible exposures to a suite of chemicals could be responsible for the ailments reported by veterans. These ranged from birth defects to chronic fatigue, and led to the emergence of the catch all term Gulf War Syndrome (GWS).

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Veterans groups oppose asbestos bill in Senate

WASHINGTON — A bill opposed by veterans groups that affects people poisoned by asbestos triggered strong debate Wednesday during a first hearing in the Senate.
Republican senators, including sponsor Jeff Flake of Arizona, argued the bill will ferret out fraudulent compensation claims by veterans with asbestos illnesses. But Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois and other Democrats said it was a giveaway to companies fighting lawsuits over the dangerous building material, which causes lung damage and cancer.
The legislation, called the FACT Act, passed the House last month entirely on Republican votes and is now opposed by 17 national veterans groups, including Military Officers Association of America, AMVETS and Vietnam Veterans of America. It requires the confidential information of hundreds of thousands of victims — as many as 30 percent of them veterans — be made publicly available for the first time.
The groups wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, stating the FACT Act is “a cynical ploy by the asbestos industry to avoid compensating its victims who are seeking justice in court.”
Flake said there is evidence of widespread fraud among the asbestos claimants that has been compared to Enron, a $70-billion energy company that collapsed in scandal in 2001, and that his bill is needed to shed light on the wrongdoing.
“The only way to be sure is to bring transparency to the trust system,” Flake said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
Dozens of trusts holding about $18 billion have been set up throughout the country by manufacturers of asbestos to compensate victims, who are coming forward in high numbers now because exposure to the substance causes disease decades later. About 10,000-15,000 people die every year from asbestos-related illnesses.
“With this amount of money at stake you’d think there would be some level of oversight but there isn’t,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the committee.
At the same time, other companies who have not paid into the trusts are fighting new civil lawsuits from victims. The bill would provide the companies a database of the trust claims and victims to use in their defense in court.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and companies that once produced asbestos have lobbied for years to pass the legislation amid a wave of poisoning suits. The Government Accountability Office found the changes could give industry defense attorneys a legal advantage.
Veterans who received compensation from an asbestos trust could have their work histories, compensation amount and partial Social Security numbers posted in bulk on a court’s public docket, which Durbin said could be a boon to identity thieves.
“You want the victims to disclose all of their information and waive their privacy. You think that is the answer?” Durbin asked bill supporters.
He said the bill also would enable companies to drag out civil lawsuits, a criticism also made by the veterans groups.
“Sadly, we know what happens when these cases are dragged out,” Durbin said. “Victims are not alive to see the result.”
The White House has said it will veto the bill if it passes the Senate. The committee hearing Wednesday was just the first step and a full chamber vote is required to send it to the president’s desk.

Agent Orange Links February 3, 2016

In Vivo Exposures to Particulate Matter Collected from Saudi Arabia or Nickel Chloride Display Similar Dysregulation of Metabolic Syndrome Genes.
Evaluation of the Pulmonary Toxicity of Ambient Particulate Matter from Camp Victory, Iraq.
Epigenome-Wide Assessment of DNA Methylation in the Placenta and Arsenic Exposure in the New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study (USA)
Effects of dioxin-related compounds on bone mineral density in patients affected by the Yusho incident.
Endocrine Disruptors: a Real Concern for Humans?
Endocrine Disruptors and Food Safety
Prenatal Phthalate Exposure and Anogenital Distance in Male Infants
Age at occupational exposure to combustion products and lung cancer risk among men in Stockholm, Sweden.
Occupational exposure to pesticides and bladder cancer risk.
Exposure to bisphenol A and behavior in school-age children.
Does maternal MDR1 C1236T polymorphism have an effect on placental arsenic levels?
Elevated concentrations of serum matrix metalloproteinase-2 and -9 and their associations with circulating markers of cardiovascular diseases in chronic arsenic-exposed individuals
Atrazine and malathion shorten the maturation process of Xenopus laevis oocytes and have an adverse effect on early embryo development
Agent Orange Footprint Still Visible in Rural Areas of Central Vietnam
Toward Understanding the Role of Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor in the Immune System: Current Progress and Future Trends
Histopathological, Ultrastructural, and Immunohistochemical Assessment of Hippocampus Structures of Rats Exposed to TCDD and High Doses of Tocopherol and Acetylsalicylic Acid
Ex-Service Organization Round Table Feedback Paper-Vietnam Veterans Family Study
Associations between maternal phenolic exposure and cord sex hormones in male newborns.
Determinants of plasma PCB, brominated flame retardants, and organochlorine pesticides in pregnant women and 3 year old children in The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study.
Organochlorine Compounds and Ultrasound Measurements of Fetal Growth in the INMA Cohort (Spain)
Paired Serum and Urine Concentrations of Biomarkers of Diethyl Phthalate, Methyl Paraben, and Triclosan in Rats
Vehicular Traffic–Related Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Exposure and Breast Cancer Incidence: The Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project (LIBCSP)
Male rats exposed in utero to di(n-butyl) phthalate: age-related changes in Leydig cell smooth endoplasmic reticulum and testicular testosterone-biosynthesis enzymes/proteins.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Study: Causes of Gulf War Illness Pinpointed 

Researcher: It was exposure to toxins employed by U.S.

MONDAY, Feb. 1, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to pesticides and other toxins appears to be the cause of Gulf War illness in U.S. veterans, a new analysis states.
The Boston University researchers reviewed studies on Gulf War illness, and said their findings "clearly and consistently" show a link between the disorder and exposure to pesticides and taking pyridostigmine bromide (PB) pills, which were meant to protect troops against the effects of nerve gas.
There's also evidence of a connection between Gulf War illness and exposure to the nerve gas agents sarin and cyclosarin, and to oil well fire emissions, according to the findings published in the January issue of the journal Cortex.
These toxins damaged troops' nervous and immune systems, and reduced the amount of white and gray matter in veterans' brains, said study leader Roberta White in a news release from the university. White is a professor of environmental health at Boston University's School of Public Health.
The main causes of Gulf War illness are like so-called "friendly fire," said study co-author James Binns. "We did it to ourselves," he said in the news release.
"Pesticides, PB, nerve gas released by destroying Iraqi facilities -- all are cases of friendly fire. That may explain why government and military leaders have been so reluctant to acknowledge what happened," Binns said.
About 700,000 U.S. troops fought in the first Gulf War 25 years ago, and as many as 250,000 veterans of that conflict have Gulf War illness, the researchers said. It is a debilitating disorder that features symptoms such as fatigue, joint and muscle pain, headaches, concentration and memory difficulties, gastrointestinal problems and skin rashes.
For years, Gulf War veterans have claimed that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs did not take Gulf War illness seriously. In 2008, a committee created by Congress and directed by the White House released a report that said Gulf War illness is a real disorder that's distinct from stress-related syndromes.
The report from the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses called for research into the causes and treatments of the illness. Binns was chairman of that committee.
Efforts to find effective treatments for Gulf War illness have been unsuccessful, but recent research has started to offer promising leads, the researchers added.
SOURCE: Boston University Medical Center, news release, Jan. 26, 2016

Agent Orange Town Hall Meetings

February 13, 2016
Mesa, Arizona
Contact: Michael Marks: 480-266-7883

February 13, 2016
Kinston, North Carolina
Contact: Rossie Nance: 910-465-0683

March 11, 2016
Elizabethtown, Kentucky
Contact: David Cowherd: 270-312-0463

April 3, 2016
Greenbelt, Maryland
Contact: Bob Hartman:

April 16, 2016
Kansas City, Missouri
Contact: Randy Barnett: 816-561-8387

 April 23, 2016
Rockford, Illinois
Contact: Chris Carlson
Dan Loyson

April 23, 2016
Des Moines, Iowa
Contact: Dan Gannon 515-991-5257
Maynard Kaderlik  507-581-6402

May 14, 2016
Swartz Creek, Michigan
To preregister by email:
Contact: Debbie Erwin:
Contact: Al Decker:

May 14, 2016
Dahlonega, Georgia
Contact: Bill Martin  706-809-2573
Fred Weil 770-313-4328

May 14, 2016
Lancaster , New Hampshire
Contact Russell Wyatt: 603-991-9212

May 21, 2016
Livonia, Michigan
Contact: Bob Dew: