Sen. Fernando Esteves announced plans yesterday to conduct a health survey through the Investigative Task Force on Environmental Pollutants, to record oral histories regarding exposure to Agent Orange and other cancer-causing pollutants on the island.
The survey, along with other environmental health analytics, will be compiled to conduct a comparative analysis of subjective and objective data to verify whether the military did use Agent Orange on Guam.
“The short-term goal is an admittance of guilt by the Department of Defense,” he said. “And I think they’re going to have a hard time proving that they didn’t use Agent Orange here.”
Committing to environmental health efforts
Survey administration will be a volunteer effort. The first-term senator admitted the scope was expansive, and that funding for analysis of the data is one issue that will need to be resolved.
In the meantime, Esteves has opted out of his legislative retirement benefits along with Speaker Benjamin Cruz, about $40,000 that can be redirected toward the survey.
However imposing the task may be, Esteves said it's important “not just because of what’s happened in the past, but how we choose to move forward in the future.”
Esteves also said it was the task force’s responsibility to be committed to all environmental health efforts as a whole.
Reports of Agent Orange use
Agent orange is an herbicide used widely by the United States to kill vegetation during the Vietnam War.
According to Viet Nam News, the U.S. sprayed more than 80 million liters of herbicide over southern Vietnam, exposing about 4.8 million Vietnamese to toxic chemicals.
Earlier this year, 68-year-old veteran Leroy Foster told national news publications that he sprayed Agent Orange in military facilities and defense properties on Guam.
Foster has said he suffers from 33 diseases, including five different cancers.
Officials have consistently denied that the U.S. military used Agent Orange outside of Vietnam, Post files state.