Friday, June 23, 2017

Antimicrobial chemicals cause more harm than they’re worth

The world is filled with harmful germs. If we allowed them to infect us, it would surely lead to illness. While this usually means getting a cold or the flu, it is still something we would rather avoid. Thankfully, the introduction of antimicrobial products in recent years has not only promised to mitigate germ exposure, but also our fears of contracting illnesses.

Chemicals with antimicrobial properties can be found in soaps, toiletries, toys, and even yoga mats. But these industrial substances designed to keep us safe have been raising serious concerns for researchers and scientists alike. 
Health and environment concerns regarding the chemicals triclosan and triclocarban are widespread, gaining the attention of more than 200 scientists and medical professionals around the globe.
“Triclosan is a case study of the many things that can go wrong when formulating consumer products. To start out with, it’s a chemical that contains dioxin—a potent toxic carcinogen. When you use the chemical, it is mostly ineffective in protecting from germs and instead actually may increase microbial risks by producing bacteria that are cross-resistant to antibiotics your doctor prescribes to save lives. It increases susceptibility to allergies. When released into water or soil, it persists for long periods of time and forms additional dioxins. When it is burned, it produces the most toxic forms of dioxin known.
Triclocarban, another one of these antimicrobial compounds, contains other potent cancer-causing chemicals called chloroanilines.
What is most disturbing is that these supposed antimicrobial chemicals added to our products provide no additional health benefits when compared to using soap and water for handwashing.

Bordallo wants Agent Orange provision in Defense Act

Guam Del. Madeleine Bordallo announced provisions related to Agent Orange use on Guam, unexploded ordnance and the former Ship Repair Facility were included in the Subcommittee on Readiness's portion of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2018. 
The full markup has been reported to the House Armed Services Committee, which will review it next week. 
Bordallo, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, issued a news release highlighting a provision requiring the Comptroller General and Government Accountability Office independently review the federal government's handling of Agent Orange on Guam. 
Due to persistent questions "about the use of locations on Guam as a transshipment point for Agent Orange intended for use in Vietnam," the GAO must submit a findings report to the House Committee by March 22, 2018. 
"I continue to be dissatisfied with the (Defense Department's) lack of evidence to support their assertion that these toxins were never present on Guam, especially in light of information provided by members of our community and former service members," Bordallo said.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Report from the National Birth Defect Registry: Birth Defects in Vietnam Veterans' Children

Agent Orange was a combination of two defoliants, 2-4-5-T and 2-4-D, contaminated by Dioxin (TCDD), a toxic by-product of the chemical production process. Over 19 million gallons of herbicides were sprayed in Vietnam between 1962 - 1971 to destroy crops and ground cover. The current scientific evidence argues not only that dioxin is a potent carcinogen, but that it appears to have more profound non-cancer health and environmental hazard effects that include reproductive, developmental and immunological effects. Dioxin appears to act like a persistent synthetic hormone interfering with important physiological signaling systems that can lead to altered cell development, differentiation and regulation. This National Birth Defects Registry report shows the differences in structural and functional birth defects in 1457 children of Vietnam veterans compared to 3131 children of non-veterans in the registry.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

High school student takes Bronze for Orange documentary

WATCH THE DOCUMENTARY
Jake Blum, a Senior at Howard High School in Ellicott City, Maryland took home a Bronze Medal in National History Day competition for his documentary,  
"Beyond the Shadow of Agent Orange: Veterans Stand for Justice."
Beyond the Shadow of Agent Orange: Veterans Stand for Justice
I recently competed in the national level of the National History Day competition for my documentary project and was fortunate enough to place third in the nation. I wanted to personally thank you for your support of my film.
For the competition, I created a ten-minute documentary addressing the theme of “Taking a Stand.” You provided me with valuable information, and I would have loved to extend the documentary to include more of everyone I interviewed if there had not been a time limit.
Below is a link to the film. It was a great experience to speak with those involved in my topic.

VA chief withdraws Staab appeal, vows to replace ‘IU’ pay cut

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin made two surprise announcements Wednesday before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee that should relieve some financial stress for more than 600,000 veterans.

First, Shulkin said he was dropping VA’s appeal of the Staab case decided last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Only last week he said Staab had been wrongly decided, exposing VA to at least $2 billion in veteran claims for outside emergency care, money VA needed to provide promised services.
Pulling the appeal means VA intends to begin covering private-sector emergency care for any VA-enrolled veteran, even if they have alternative health insurance that pays part of their emergency care costs. As many as 370,000 veterans with pending claims could benefit too, explained Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., who thanked Shulkin for changing his mind. Shulkin said Rounds and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., were right to sharply criticize the decision to appeal.
Shulkin’s second surprise Wednesday was to tell Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., he will work with Congress to find a less hurtful way to fund his Choice replacement plan, CARE, than by administratively ending Individual Unemployability (IU) eligibility next year for 208,000 seriously disabled veterans age 62 or older.
IU allows veterans with VA disability ratings of 60 percent to 90 percent to receive enhanced compensation because they are unable to work. IU qualifies veterans to receive disability pay as if they were 100 percent disabled. It adds an average of $1,600 to their monthly payments, a VA official told senators.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Congressmen reintroduce Agent Orange Reconciliation Act

WASHINGTON, DC – Last night, Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02) and Congressman Charlie Dent (R-PA) reintroduced the Agent Orange Reconciliation Act of 2017 (H.R. 2891) in an effort to help heal the post-conflict, human cost of war by caring for children living with Spina Bifida due to a Vietnam veteran parent’s exposure to Agent Orange. 
Spina Bifida requires costly surgeries and extensive medical care because of potential paralysis resulting from damage to the spinal cord. The Agent Orange Reconciliation Act of 2017 would fill gaps in the Agent Orange Benefits Act (Public Law 104-204) by providing a one-time retroactive monetary payment to the families with children enduring with Spina Bifida to compensate for treatment of related symptoms from birth until the date benefits under the original Act were first received.
“Our legislation would provide necessary relief for those Vietnam veterans' children suffering with Spina Bifida due to Agent Orange," said Congressman Bishop. "These veterans and their families have been left with the cost of years of medical care directly attributable to the veteran’s wartime service. We owe it to our veterans to care for them and their families, and this legislation would help do just that.” 
“I’m honored to join my good friend and colleague, Congressman Bishop, in this appropriate effort to provide well-deserved support to these long-suffering families,” added Congressman Dent.  “It is my hope that this bipartisan measure will move forward in order to assist the children of our Vietnam veterans who have faced the effects of Spina Bifida as a result of their parents’ honorable service.”

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

ProPublica Hammers VA Over Recent Agent Orange Science Rejection

Today, ProPublica hammered a key VA official who denies the harm caused by use of dangerous toxins commonly referred to as Agent Orange.

Assertions Of VA Agent Orange Denier Jim Sampsel
The testimony was presented last March to the committee in an effort to explain why VA denies to many claims related to the herbicide, “When it comes to Agent Orange, the facts don’t always matter.” Sampsel continued, “So we have to deal with the law as written.”

Commenting on testimony provided to a VA advisory committee, lead analyst Jim Sampsel, dismissed present concerns over Agent Orange exposure, calling it “hype” and “hysteria” not based on “science.”
This curious given the longstanding obstruction VA and DoD have engaged in regarding the effects of herbicides using in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War including massive redactions of evidence and voodoo science to support the interests of Monsanto, the two companies responsible for manufacturing the toxin.
Much of the research in the past that I reviewed, which is part of the Alvin Young Collection, focused on impacts of dioxin exposure at normal levels. This assumption fails to account for the military’s use of the dioxin in highly concentrated forms to function as a chemical weapon, according to Russian research published at the time. (more on this below)
The collection consists of much of the research reviewed by US Air Force’s supposed subject matter expert Alvin Young, PhD. He went on to deny the harm caused by herbicides used in Vietnam and testified as a hired gun expert for Dow and Monsanto when the companies were sued by Vietnam veterans decades ago.

Veterans Affairs Official Downplays Agent Orange Risks, Questions Critics

At a meeting in March, a lead analyst in the VA’s compensation service was critical of the media, scientists and the VA’s own administrative tribunal for taking positions that differ from his. The VA said his comments “did not fully or accurately reflect VA’s position” but also said his quotes were being taken out of context. 
A key federal official who helps adjudicate claims by veterans who say they were exposed to Agent Orange has downplayed the risks of the chemical herbicide and questioned the findings of scientists, journalists and even a federal administrative tribunal that conflict with his views.
Jim Sampsel, a lead analyst within the Department of Veterans Affairs’ compensation service, told a VA advisory committee in March that he believes much of the renewed attention to Agent Orange — used during the Vietnam War to kill brush and deny cover to enemy troops — is the result of media “hype” and “hysteria,” according to a transcript of the meeting released to ProPublica.
“When it comes to Agent Orange, the facts don’t always matter,” said Sampsel, himself a Vietnam veteran who also handles Gulf War-related illness questions. “So we have to deal with the law as written.”
Part of Sampsel’s job entails reviewing evidence to determine whether a veteran or group of veterans came in contact with Agent Orange outside of Vietnam. By law, veterans are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange if they served or stepped foot in Vietnam; they have to prove exposure if they served at sea or in another country during the war. They also must have a disease that the VA ties to exposure to the herbicide.
“From my point of view, I will do anything to help veterans, any legitimate veteran, and I’ve done it plenty of times,” he told the Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation, a group that advises the VA. “Unfortunately when it comes to this Agent Orange, we have to have a lot of denials.”

2017 Gulf War Newsletter

The latest release of the yearly Gulf War Newsletter features current research efforts on the health of Gulf War Veterans, information on fibromyalgia, news on presumptive service connection for Camp Lejeune Veterans, and more.  Read this newsletter at https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/publications/gulf-war/gulf-war-winter-2017/

Expedition Orange Update

KINGMAN – Cliff Romberger served in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971 and died in 2015 of a brain disease as a result of exposure to Agent Orange.
He was a lifelong horseman and never fulfilled his last bucket list item: to ride coast to coast on horseback. His son is now fulfilling that wish.
Colt Romberger, a U.S. Air Force and Iraq War veteran, is carrying his father’s ashes as part of Expedition Orange, a 3,000-mile ride to raise awareness and honor Vietnam veterans suffering from Agent Orange exposure. He’s also on a mission to get other Vietnam War veterans, and their families, to open up about how Agent Orange has affected their lives.
He made a stop in Kingman Friday before taking a three-week break for rest and repairs.
“Before my dad died he said ‘More for them, less for me,’” Romberger said. “I think what he meant by that was to raise awareness for everyone.”
He started the trek May 1 on Sunset Boulevard and the Pacific Coast Highway north of Santa Monica, California. He hooked up on Route 66 in Pasadena and followed the Mother Road all the way to the California and Nevada side of U.S. Highway 95, ultimately riding into Laughlin and on through Golden Valley.
Romberger, road foreman Kenny Reichel and Gus, his Steel Dust-bred quarter horse, stayed the night at the Mohave County Fairgrounds after a grueling three-day trek from Bullhead City to Golden Valley through the Black Mountains.
“I had to lead (Gus) 2 miles up a hill,” Romberger said. “I was literally holding him with one hand and climbing up a hill with the other.”

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Agent Orange linked manufacturing site, “a weeping sore”

Saturday, June 10, 2017
The day after a public meeting to oppose development on a toxic site in a northern suburb of Melbourne, the developer put it up for sale on a real estate site, without any mention of the contamination. In Victoria, there is no legal requirement for the sellers of contaminated land, to indicate that a site is contaminated.
Local residents packed the Fawkner Senior Citizens Centre on May 11 to hear speakers about the issues around this toxic site.
Several of the older residents who attended the public meeting have family members who died of cancer that they suspect is linked to the operation of chemical company Nufarm on this site from 1957 to 1974. A cancer cluster was discovered in Fawkner and on the other side of Merri Creek at the Lakeside Secondary College.
Nufarm manufactured DDT, arsenic, 2-4-D and 2-4-5-T, as well as Agent Orange, the pesticide that has destroyed the lives of generations of Vietnamese people after it was sprayed by the US army during the Vietnam War. When 24-D and 245-T are mixed together they form Agent Orange. A by-product of the process is dioxin, which is the most toxic element of Agent Orange.
The site was heavily contaminated with dioxins until it received a partial clean-up in the early 1990s.
The Western Region Environment Centre’s Harry van Moorst explained to the public meeting that dioxins are particularly dangerous: “They are carcinogenic. They create tumours. They possibly cause genetic mutation. They are also seen as possible teratogens, causing malformation of the embryo and they have massive effect on immune systems, central nervous systems and diabetes.
“Dioxins are one of those things that really affect your system as a whole. As a result it makes you vulnerable to a whole lot of other diseases and illnesses that aren’t necessarily attributed to dioxin but are attributable to the impact they’ve had on your immune system and nervous system. It makes you extremely vulnerable.”

Thursday, June 8, 2017

DoD to Open Online Exchange Shopping to Veterans

 The Department of Defense announced a policy change that will extend limited online military exchange shopping privileges to all honorably discharged veterans of the military.
The veterans online shopping benefit will be effective this Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
While shopping privileges exclude the purchase of uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products, it includes the Exchange Services’ dynamic online retail environment known so well to service members and their families. This policy change follows careful analysis, coordination and strong public support.
“We are excited to provide these benefits to honorably discharged veterans to recognize their service and welcome them home to their military family,” said Peter Levine, performing the duties for the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
“In addition, this initiative represents a low-risk, low-cost opportunity to help fund Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs in support of service members’ and their families’ quality of life. And it’s just the right thing to do,” Levine added.
The online benefit will also strengthen the exchanges’ online businesses to better serve current patrons. Inclusion of honorably discharged veterans would conservatively double the exchanges’ online presence, thereby improving the experience for all patrons through improved vendor terms, more competitive merchandise assortments, and improved efficiencies, according to DoD officials.
“As a nation, we are grateful for the contributions of our service members. Offering this lifetime online benefit is one small, tangible way the nation can say, ‘Thank you’ to those who served with honor,” Levine said.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Expedition Orange: Day 33

Once again there was the desert, and that only. – Stephen King, The Gunslinger
Over the past few days I have developed a keen appreciation for the cowboys who rode through these valleys and gulches. There is much to consider when negotiating the arid Southwest. The two things that come to mind are the heat and the terrain.
...When I woke up this morning at 4:30 to feed Gus it was about 63 degrees. Cold enough for a sweatshirt. When I checked the mercury mid day it was pushing 105. Gus drinks about 24 gallons of water a day from sun up to sun down.
...The terrain can be cruelly deceptive. Today we covered 12 miles of rough desert along washes and valleys. The rains in the wet season and the resulting run off from the mountains create washes perpendicular to the mountains. 
...Tomorrow we are heading from Laughlin, Nevada to Kingman, Arizona.

Friday, June 2, 2017

June is PTSD Awareness Month

PTSD RESOURCES
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) impacts millions of people and their families. After a traumatic event, most people have painful memories. For many people, the effects of the event fade over time. But for others, the memories, thoughts and feelings don't go away - even months or years after the event is over. Mental health experts are not sure why some people develop PTSD and others do not. If stress reactions do not improve over time and they disrupt everyday life, it is important to seek help to determine if PTSD is present.
The purpose of PTSD Awareness Month is to encourage everyone to raise public awareness of PTSD and effective treatments. We can all help those affected by PTSD.
"Raising PTSD awareness is essential to overcoming the myth, misinformation and stigma surrounding this mental health problem" said the former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert A. McDonald. "We encourage everyone to join us in this important effort."

PTSD Resources

 

Dow Chemical Loses Key Ruling in Dioxin Pollution Dispute

Property owners have won a key decision from the Michigan appeals court in their long-running lawsuit over dioxin contamination by Dow Chemical.

SAGINAW, Mich. (AP) — Property owners have won a key decision from the Michigan Court of Appeals in their long-running lawsuit over dioxin contamination by Dow Chemical.
The court ruled 2-1 on Thursday that property owners along the Tittabawassee River in eastern Michigan didn't wait too long to sue the chemical company over contamination in the river's flood plain. The contamination was caused by dioxin released by Dow decades ago.
Dow argued that the statute of limitations had expired because the public became aware of dioxin pollution in the river in the 1980s. But the appeals court said the key date was in 2002, when Michigan environmental regulators reported high levels in the flood plain in Saginaw County.
"Plaintiffs' damages, including the loss of the use and enjoyment of their property and depreciation of their property values, arose from the harm of dioxins in their soil reaching potentially toxic levels but did not exist in any tangible form until the (state) published its 2002 notice," according to the ruling from Judge Kathleen Jansen and Judge Henry Saad.
The lawsuit was filed a year later, within a key three-year period.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

AGENT ORANGE TOWN HALL MEETINGS









We update our meetings regularly on the Town Hall Meeting Calendar:

June 3, 2017
Lincoln, Rhode Island
Contact: Fran Guevremont

June 24, 2017
Sauk Rapids, Minnesota
Contact: Bob Behrens 763-497-5900
Maynard Kaderlik 507-581-6402

August 19, 2017
McKinney, Texas
Contact: Don Roush,
618-340-0769 (cell/text)

September 23, 2017
Chicago, Illinois
Contact: Pat O'Brien 847.403.4676
Roger McGill 773.203.3353