Dr. Wayne Dwernychuk Special to Salem-News.com
Suspicions continue to exist between the US and Viet Nam, although the deep freeze appears to be thawing...
(BRITISH COLUMBIA) - From 1961 to 1971 over 77 million litres of herbicide were dispensed over southern Viet Nam by the US military through the code-named ‘Operation Ranch Hand’. The Vietnamese reported early on during the operation that human health was being adversely affected by widespread dispersal of defoliants. Agent Orange, a 1:1 mixture of 2,4,-D and 2,4,5-T, was the most prevalent herbicide used.
The US government maintains their decades-old mantra that there is no unequivocal scientific evidence that use of Agent Orange has caused an increase in either birth defects in Viet Nam, or is related to other human health issues in Viet Nam. US government officials remain reluctant to accept Vietnamese studies/observations as sufficiently rigorous to definitively link US deployed herbicides to human health impacts, primarily in view of liability/compensation concerns.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs (US DVA) presently compensates US Viet Nam Veterans for health conditions that may have resulted from Agent Orange exposure while serving in Viet Nam. At least one of the health conditions for which compensation is paid has a genetic component, that is, spina bifida. It appears contradictory that the US ignores the health issues of Vietnamese citizens exposed to Agent Orange, but pays compensation to its Viet Nam Veterans for a number of illnesses related to their exposure to the herbicide … illnesses that the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) has categorized as being ‘presumed’ to be related to Agent Orange exposure, and subsequently adopted by the US DVA for veteran compensation purposes. As I understand it, compensation is awarded to a veteran if: 1) the person can prove that he or she was in the US armed forces during the time of the Viet Nam War; 2) the person can prove being in Viet Nam at the time of the Viet Nam War; 3) the person can prove the onset of the compensable disease after service in Viet Nam; and 4) the person possesses an honorable discharge from the military.
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