Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dealing with the legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam

A national grant maker in New York and a former congressman from Pennsylvania came to San Francisco on Feb. 25 to explain how Americans can help "end the war" in Vietnam.

"War doesn't end when the last soldier leaves," said Bob Edgar, a former politician turned president and CEO of a citizen lobbying group called Common Cause. It's time, he added, to move past the "blame game" and take part in a humanitarian effort to help the people still suffering in Vietnam.

Edgar made his comments at the Commonwealth Club, which hosted an hour-long discussion titled, "Addressing the Legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam." He was joined on stage by Charles Bailey, a Ford Foundation director who helped to establish Ford's Special Initiative on Agent Orange/Dioxin.

The event was moderated by San Francisco State University Journalism Professor Jon Funabiki, a former Ford Foundation grant maker who now runs the Vietnam Reporting Project.

Bailey, who spent a decade in Vietnam for Ford, spoke passionately about the need for philanthropists, politicians, community leaders and other concerned citizens to help Vietnam recover from the devastating effects of Agent Orange.

"There is this lingering legacy of the past," Bailey said, adding that the spraying and storage of Agent Orange during the war and after has adversely affected millions of people. "The bottom line," he added, is that people who enduring the spraying or live around "hot spots" need help.

"Agent Orange and some of the other herbicides (used during the war) were contaminated with dioxin, a highly toxic and persistent organic pollutant," according to a declaration put forth by the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin. "Dioxin (2,3,7, 8-tetrachlorop-dibenzo-dioxin, or TCDD) has been linked by the U.S. Institutes of Medicine to cancers, diabetes, and nerve and heart disease among people directly and indirectly exposed, and to spina bifida among their offspring."

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/wilson/detail?entry_id=83884#ixzz1FN5d9xlP

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