Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Senators Moran and Blumenthal, Representatives Benishek and Honda Introduce New Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015

April 14, 2015
                  No. 15-4
Contact: Mokie Porter
Senators Moran and Blumenthal,
Representatives Benishek and Honda Introduce
New Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015

(Washington, DC) – “It’s bad enough that veterans have had to bear the cross of exposure to toxic agents during our military service,” said Vietnam Veterans of America National President John Rowan. “It is worse to see our children and grandchildren afflicted with health conditions we suspect have derived from our exposure, and to think we are the cause of their hurt and pain. Today, however, we see real light at the end of a long, grim tunnel with the introduction of the ‘Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015.’ This legislation, when enacted, will establish within the Department of Veterans Affairs a national center for research on the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions of the descendants of veterans exposed to toxic substances during their service,” Rowan said

“VVA is gratified that this is a bipartisan effort in both houses of Congress,” Rowan emphasized.  “We applaud Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Dick Blumenthal (D-CT), and Representatives Dan Benishek (R-MI) and Mike Honda (D-CA) – and their energetic and committed staffs – for introducing S. 901 and H.R. 1769.  We will pull out all the stops to work with them in seeking additional co-sponsors for this very necessary legislation. And we will work with our fellow veterans service organizations, military organizations and associations, and others to move these bills through the legislative process and into black-letter law.”         
“This bill isn’t only about the herbicide Agent Orange and other chemicals used in South Vietnam,” Rowan pointed out, “It’s about exposures to chemical agents for all who have served in our Armed Forces, including those exposed to the toxic fumes released by the U.S. Demolition Operations at the Khamisiyah Pit and those exposed to the toxic fires from burn pits across Afghanistan and Iraq during Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.”
Rowan noted that a key part of this legislation is the establishment of an advisory board that will oversee and assess the work of the center, to determine health conditions in a veteran’s offspring that likely result from the veteran’s exposure, and to study and evaluate cases of exposure.

Monsanto, the Producer of “Agent Orange” brings GMO Agriculture to Vietnam
In November last year, Brian Leung, a Southeast Asia-based journalist, observed:

“Vietnam continues to roll out the red carpet for foreign biotech giants, including the infamous Monsanto, to sell the controversial genetically modified (GM) corn varieties in the country. Jeffrey Smith and other critics say that by welcoming Monsanto, Vietnam has been too nice to the main manufacturer of Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant used during the Vietnam War that left a devastating legacy still claiming victims today.”
Just Means, an online publisher of news about corporate social responsibility, sustainability, energy, health, education, technology and innovation, added an update:
Monsanto sees a large potential in Vietnam as a main market for the company, and plans to increase its investments in the country in the future. Juan Ferreira, vice president of Monsanto said that the country has a combination of good soil, good governance, and appetite for investment, which paves the way for the entry of advanced technologies.
No mention of GM by name – but plenty of enabling activity.
Ferreira said that with advanced technologies, it is possible to develop agriculture sustainably by using the same or less water and nitrogen and achieve greater yields. The technologies were not named. No reference was made to the Vietnamese government’s 2006 plan (see Leung) to develop GM crops as part of a “major program for the development and application of biotechnology in agriculture and rural development.”
In August 2014, it was announced that cultivation of the country’s first GM crops will be underway by 2015 and 30-50% of farmland covered with genetically modified organisms by 2020. The country’s agriculture ministry approved the imports of four corn varieties engineered for food and animal feed processing: MON 89034 and NK 603, products of DeKalb Vietnam (a subsidiary of U.S. multinational Monsanto), and GA 21 and MIR 162 from the Swiss firm Syngenta. The Vietnamese environment ministry has to date issued bio-safety certificates for Monsanto’s MON 89034 and NK 603 corn varieties and Syngenta’s GA 21, meaning farmers can start commercially cultivating the crops. The ministry is considering issuing a similar certificate for the other variety, MR 162.


Belgian writer-director seeks justice for Vietnamese AO victims
“Lien in Me Linh or War and its crimes” by Belgian writer-director Jean Marc Turine recounted 1961 to 1972 when the US army dumped over 80 million litres of defoliant, mostly the highly toxic Agent Orange/dioxin, over a quarter of the area in southern Vietnam, marking the largest-ever chemical warfare in history that has since devastated generations of Vietnamese, the environment and ecological system alike.
The main character is Lien, 18, an AO victim living in the outlying district of Me Linh. Her father was exposed to AO/dioxin while fighting in the central – Central Highlands battlefields, then transmitted the toxin to her.
Confined to a wheelchair at home, Lien faces physical and spiritual agony from fits of convulsions. Her dream of going to school will never come true.
Jean-Marc Turine said through the film, he wants to criticise the irresponsibility of the US government and chemical producers Monsanto and Dow Chemical which denied compensation for Vietnamese sufferers.
Through the voices of victims and witnesses, he aims to awaken European citizens to the painful after-effects of AO and spread a message of compassion and support for victims with practical actions.
The film was screened ahead of the April 16 court date in the French city of Evry, a case lodged by Vietnamese-French Tran To Nga to seek justice for Vietnamese AO victims.

Federal agency to present results of Camp Lejeune health studies at public meetings

(Atlanta)-- The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) invites the public to hear from the authors of a group of health studies conducted to understand the impact of exposure to contaminated drinking water at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.  The authors will discuss the study results during a public meeting at 6:00 p.m. on May 12, 2015.  The authors also will answer questions about the studies and their results. The quarterly Community Assistance Panel (CAP) meeting will take place at 9:00 a.m. on May 13; that meeting is also open to the public.  Both meetings will take place in Greensboro, North Carolina.
ATSDR has published several studies that describe the extent of the drinking water contamination at Camp Lejeune. These studies have linked exposures to the drinking water with a number of diseases and health conditions, including multiple cancers, preterm births, and neural tube defects.  U.S. Marine Corps and Navy personnel, their families, and civilian employees who worked at the base participated in the studies. 
Both meetings will be held at:
Embassy Suites Greensboro-Airport Hotel
204 Centreport Drive
Greensboro, North Carolina 27409 
Public Meeting:  May 12, 2015; 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Community Assistance Panel Meeting:  May 13, 2015; 9:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Background: The contamination of drinking water at Camp Lejeune started in the early 1950s and ended in 1985 when highly contaminated water wells were removed from service. The water was contaminated with tetrachloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE), benzene, 1,2-dichloroethylene (DCE) and vinyl chloride.  Benzene and TCE are known human carcinogens, and PCE is considered a likely human carcinogen.  A privately owned dry cleaner next to Camp Lejeune as well as base activities that released fuel and chlorinated solvents into the environment were identified as the sources of the contamination.
For meeting updates and more information about the health studies and other work done by ATSDR at Camp Lejeune, visit

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

French court to hear first hearing in AO victim's suit

A local court in Evry, France will hear a lawsuit from an Agent Orange victim on April 16, according to the Viet Nam Association for Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA). The victim, Tran To Nga, sued US chemical manufacturers on June 11, 2014, said Senior Lieutenant-General Nguyen Van Rinh, VAVA president.
In her complaint, Nga, 73, sued 26 companies for providing toxic chemical weapons used by US forces in Viet Nam during the American War.
"At present, 12 US chemical companies have hired lawyers to defend themselves in court," Rinh said at a press conference yesterday in Ha Noi. "If the court requires victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin to testify, we will be there to act as witnesses."
"If the court returns a verdict, the companies will have to bear legal responsibility. I'm convinced that justice shall prevail. Whether the victory is won inside the court or through an agreement outside court, it will provide a basis for future lawsuits."
Nga was a correspondent for Viet Nam News Agency during the war. She reported in areas densely sprayed with Agent Orange, including Cu Chi (HCM City), Binh Long District, Binh Phuoc Province and the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Nga had three children. Her eldest child died of congenital heart defects when she was 17 months old, and her second daughter inherited the blood disorder (alpha thalassemia) from her. The youngest daughter contracted a skin disease. According to VAVA, Nga pursued the suits to seek justice for her family and other victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin. Previously, she provided witness testimony at an International People's Tribunal of Conscience.
Nga also testified at a public trial in Paris in 2009 against the US chemical companies. In 2014, she and Paris-based law firm William Bourdon&Forestier acted as a joint plaintiff and filed her suit. The petition and related files were forwarded to the court in Evry and the companies.
Also on this occasion, VAVA asked the Evry court to complete related documents and procedures quickly for the sake of the plaintiff, Nga. The organization also asked lawyers to speak from the bottom of their hearts for justice for Agent Orange victims.
"They are the most miserable among the miserable people and the poorest among the poor people," Rinh said.
There are more than 3 million victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin, according to the Government.

Veterans Health Administration Update: Military Exposures

Servicemembers who were stationed at Fort McClellan between 1929 and 1971 may have been exposed to low levels of radioactive compounds, chemical warfare agents, and airborne hazards. Learn more about Fort McClellan
Fort McClellan was an Army installation in Alabama that opened in 1917.
Some members of the U.S. Army Chemical Corp School, Army Combat Development Command Chemical/Biological/Radiological Agency, Army Military Police School and Women's Army Corps, among others, may have been exposed to one or more of several hazardous materials, likely at low levels, during their service at Fort McClellan. Potential exposures could have included, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Radioactive compounds (cesium-137 and cobalt-60) used in decontamination training activities in isolated locations on base.
  • Chemical warfare agents (mustard gas and nerve agents) used in decontamination testing activities in isolated locations on base.
  • Airborne polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from the Monsanto plant in the neighboring town.
Although exposures to high levels of these compounds have been shown to cause a variety of adverse health effects in humans and laboratory animals, there is no evidence of exposures of this magnitude having occurred at Fort McClellan.

Study finds large dioxin emissions from Vietnam's waste treatment plants
Many incinerators that burn industrial and medical waste in Vietnam are discharging dangerous amounts of dioxin, some at 5,000 times the safe limit, according to a new research.
Le Ke Son, the lead researcher and a former official at the environment ministry, said the report is the first time “Vietnam admits that there’s dioxin discharged from industrial activities besides from dioxin left from the war.”
The research was conducted by Steering Committee 33, a national committee set up to mitigate the effects of toxic chemicals used by the US during the Vietnam War, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
Dioxin, one of the most toxic and persistent compounds which can leave impacts including cancer through generations, can be inhaled or digested.
Environmental group Greenpeace has said it is the most toxic manmade chemical ever identified. Researchers said dioxin in sewage sludge can easily be absorbed into food through soil and water.
Incinerators are responsible for most of the dioxin discharged in Vietnam, the research has revealed, based on the amount of dioxin and dioxin-related compounds (DRCs) measured in their emissions and sewage sludge.  
Vietnam has not developed technologies to recycle and treat waste properly and mostly burns all of its garbage together.
The research team took 18 emission samples from medical, urban and industrial incinerators and all of them contained dioxin or DRCs, with seven exceeding the safe limit.

Threats of violence from veterans groups derail Vietnam War event
They’re going around the whole country trying to make us look like butchers of innocent people.” “It looks like those [censored] found out that we were gathering and moved somewhere else.”

On the afternoon of Apr. 7, about 300 members of the Korean Victims of Agent Orange Veterans Association (KAOVA) held a demonstration across from Jogye Buddhist Temple in central Seoul and shouted invectives over a loudspeaker. The group had promised to physically prevent a reception for a photo exhibition that was going to be attended by survivors of civilian massacres by South Korean troops during the Vietnam War. The members of the group hung up banners in the area that said, “Are you going to insult Vietnam veterans who were victims of Agent Orange and turn Viet Cong into innocent victims of massacres?” and played military songs such as “Here Come the Tigers” and “Sergeant Kim’s Return from Vietnam.” “Our grandsons and granddaughters thought their grandfathers were heroes in the Vietnam War. What are they going to think if they hear that we were massacring innocent civilians?” members of KAOVA shouted. Some of the members came very close to a clash with the police that had been dispatched to the scene. The Peace Museum had invited two victims of civilian massacres during the Vietnam War to attend a reception for a photo exhibition. The reception was supposed to take place at Jogye Buddhist Temple on the evening of Apr. 7. However, the event fell through after the Jogye Order of Buddhism cancelled the reservation of the space, fearing a backlash from the veteran groups. “Considering that no progress has been made in the 15 years that have passed since the issue of massacres of Vietnamese civilians by South Korean soldiers was made public, I’m not surprised. Still, this is disappointing,” said Seok Mi-hwa, secretary general for the Peace Museum.MORE

Vietnam veteran files class-action suit against VA over claims backlog
A Vietnam veteran reportedly filed a class-action lawsuit on Monday looking to force the Department of Veteran Affairs to fast-track a massive backlog of benefits claims appeals.
According to The New York Times, the case by lead plaintiff Conley Monk Jr. is the first class-action suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The claims in question include his own.
The veteran has waited years for disability benefits from the VA for claims of post-traumatic stress disorder and exposure to toxic chemicals. Monk is a Marine Corps veteran from Connecticut who said he came under fire during the Vietnam War and was exposed to the herbicide and defoliant Agent Orange -- used by the United States military during the war and sometimes associated with PTSD and diabetes, which Monk was diagnosed with in 2011.
Monk reportedly applied for disability from the VA, and was denied. He appealed in 2013.
“It’s frustrating to be stuck in limbo,” Monk, 66, told the New York Times. “It’s been hard to make ends meet. And we Vietnam veterans are getting older. We can’t wait forever.”
The high number of benefits claims at the VA began rising in 2009, driven by claims from veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. It peaked in 2013 with more than 600,000 claims, according to the Times.

Defence offers help with Agent Orange claim
The Defence Force has offered the Waitangi Tribunal use of its bases as well as other help for the inquiry into the treatment of Maori veterans of past wars.
The inquiry will be the first to under the tribunal's new kaupapa claim framework.
Because claimants will no longer be able to get the funding from the Crown Forest Rental Trust that has oiled the wheels of the historical claims process, the crown will need to find new ways to cover the costs of research and hearings.
In a memorandum sent to the tribunal last Friday, Crown Law said oral evidence hearings need to start as soon as possible, because of the age of the claimants and many of the witnesses.
It said as well as providing venues and catering for the hearings, Defence may provide transport for veterans to get to the hearings.
It also offered help researching the service records of veterans held in Defence Archives, and to commission the Defence Force historian to bring together evidence on topics like exposure of veterans to nuclear radiation or Agent Orange.
The Crown says it won’t cross examine veterans or their spouses in the oral evidence hearings, but if necessary would seek to contradict any evidence through written questions, or through its own submissions and evidence in the main hearings.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Vietnam diseases spreading to vets’ children

“I got married in ’77. We had a child; four years later, he died,” said Joe Keller of Redfield.
His next two children were all right, but now that they’re having children of their own, his grandchildren are beginning to have problems. One was born with webbed fingers, he said.
David Kloucek of Tabor cited similar problems.
“My wife and I have nine children. Well, all five of our daughters had dysplasia. They had to have all or part of their female organs removed. Our grandchildren have epilepsy, one of them. No idea where that traces back to. Skin cancer on one of my boys when he was in high school. Tourette’s on one of the boys,” he said.
Several Vietnam veterans from South Dakota spoke up Saturday afternoon as they gathered at the state capital for a homecoming weekend. One of the events was a forum on Agent Orange, and these vets described various birth defects their children — and even their grandchildren — have suffered.
The list is endless, and heartbreaking. A girl who was born without any valves in her bladder. A boy who breaks out in a rash every four months. Autism. Cancer. Miscarriage. Stillborn. A grandson born without a thyroid. A woman, fully grown and healthy all her life — until one of her kidneys stopped working.
Agent Orange was a defoliant used liberally during the Vietnam War. American soldiers were exposed to it, and years later, they began developing serious health problems.
And now, their children are beginning to develop health problems, too, said Jack Kempter, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 1054 in Waubay.
Kempter has had two operations for cancer, both of them caused by Agent Orange. Now research has shown that the contamination may last for five or more generations — meaning great-grandchildren could be affected.
The same is likely true of every soldier who went to Vietnam.
“If you were boots on the ground in Vietnam, you were exposed to Agent Orange,” he said.
But that’s not all. People who served on Navy ships may also have been exposed if the ship docked in Vietnam. Or if the ship was just off the coast, since the ships took on sea water which may have been tainted. The equipment to desalinate the water did not remove the Agent Orange.
Maynard Kaderlik, of the Vietnam Veterans of America Minnesota State Council, put it simply.
“There’s a lot of veterans who don’t know that what happened to them — Agent Orange — is happening to their kids and grandkids. We want to educate them,” he said.