Friday, February 18, 2011

Battle to heal wounds of Agent Orange continues

Chapel Hill, N.C. — More than 30 years after the bullets stopped flying in Vietnam, a battle rages to help people still suffering from the effects of Agent Orange.

Agent Orange was an herbicide, later discovered to be contaminated with the toxic chemical dioxin, that the U.S. military sprayed on the jungles of Vietnam to hamper guerrilla operations.

Lingering health and environmental problems from Agent Orange affect an estimated 3 million Vietnamese, including 150,000 children, experts said during a panel discussion at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Wednesday.

“If you use herbicides to kill the trees and shrubs, it exposes the tropical soil to tropical rains and degradation, and it’s very hard to get anything to grow again,” said Charles Bailey, director of the Ford Foundation's Special Initiative on Agent Orange/Dioxin.

Research has shown an increased number of Vietnamese children have been born with severe birth defects and Down syndrome since the war ended in 1975, panelists said, although the genetic effects of Agent Orange are still debated.

“Wars aren’t over when the last soldiers leave the battlefield,” said Bob Edgar, president of the nonprofit Common Cause, which is working on the Agent Orange issue in Vietnam.

As a congressman at the end of the Vietnam War, Edgar pushed legislation to help veterans impacted by Agent Orange. Now, his focus is on the people of that country.

Edgar said he has seen people there affected by "unbelievable birth defects, spina bifida, cleft pallets and hair lips" and other facial disfigurements.


No comments:

Post a Comment