Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Group Pushes for Center to Study Children of Vietnam Vets
Vietnam isn’t exactly the war most people are concerned with these days. But if you had a father or grandfather exposed to Agent Orange — the toxic defoliant used in that time and place — you may not be able to ignore the war or its effect on your health.
And Betty Mekdeci, an Orlando woman who founded the nonprofit Birth Defect Research for Children, doesn’t think you should be ignored, either.
Thirty years ago, after having a son born with unexplained medical problems, Mekdeci started the charity Birth Defect Research for Children out of her home’s utility room . With the help of her husband, she investigated possible causes — a mission that eventually led to ridding the market of a pregnancy drug linked to her son’s condition. In those seven years of research, she also found that precious little information was available to parents about what can cause birth defects and where to turn for help.
One of her biggest contributions has been the National Birth Defect Registry, which tracks possible associations between birth defects and disabilities and the exposure of the child’s parents to certain toxins.
In 1986, Mekdeci was invited by representatives of the court in the Agent Orange litigation to become involved with the issue of birth defects and disabilities in the children of Vietnam veterans.  Through her registry’s research, she says, “we found an impressive pattern of learning, attention, immune and endocrine problems in their children.”
This is consistent with other research on dioxin, the chemical contaminant of Agent Orange, Mekdeci says.
“We have talked with thousands of families over the years and are constantly frustrated that we don’t know where to send them for care. What they need is specialized diagnosis and treatment.”
To that end, her organization is sponsoring an online petition for a national center devoted to Vietnam veterans’ children. It would be staffed with experts on the effects of exposure to such chemicals as dioxin, as well as with doctors who know how to test and treat the serious conditions found in the soldiers’ children.

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