Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dr. Wayne Dwernechuk: Denials of defoliant at former U.S. base site in Okinawa fly in the face of science

Evidence points to Vietnam-era herbicides in drums buried in field, scientist says

For the attention of the government of Japan and the people of Okinawa:
As accusations and denials swirl regarding the burial of herbicides employed by the U.S. military in Vietnam during that war, there are irrefutable facts that seem not to have been considered in their true context. Denials of such burials by the U.S. military on land that was then part of Kadena Air Base on Okinawa by Dr. Alvin Young, a hired consultant and purported expert on military herbicides, and the U.S. Department of Defense are disingenuous at the very least, and at worst a blatant cover-up of historical realities.

For over 15 years I served as the lead scientist for Hatfield Consultants, investigating the impact of Agent Orange on the environment and human population of southern Vietnam. Our studies formed the foundation for understanding the movement of dioxin, originating from Agent Orange, through the ecological landscape and into humans. Implementation of remedial measures in Vietnam has stemmed directly from our Agent Orange research, including work now underway at the site of one of the former U.S. air bases in Vietnam, Da Nang.
Ehime University analyzed liquid residues in 22 30-gallon drums uncovered on former Kadena Air Base land. All but two samples contained the toxicant TCDD (a dioxin), a specific by-product of the manufacturing process of 2,4,5-T, one of the two constituents of Agent Orange. This constituent, 2,4,5-T, was present in the majority of the drums, but at low levels probably indicative of gradual decomposition over the years inside these drums.
Interestingly, 2,4-D, the other constituent of Agent Orange, was not found in any of the 22 drums, suggesting the liquid residue was not Agent Orange. The Okinawa Defense Bureau concluded that given these data, and specifically the lack of 2,4-D, the chance this liquid residue was, in fact, a defoliant was “slim.” This contention is blatantly false and totally disregards objective analytical data that clearly shows the presence of 2,4,5-T, a herbicide, in these drums. I suggest that the word “slim” should be altered to “certain.”
The use of such terms as “herbicide” and “defoliant” should not confuse the reader — the two are interchangeable and should not be used in attempts to skew the interpretation of data and the issue of the presence or otherwise of specific “wartime chemicals.”
These chemicals, used for removal of vegetation to deprive opposing forces of forest cover and rice crops during the Vietnam conflict, consisted of a variety of chemical mixtures. To enable identification of a specific chemical spray, drums of these herbicides/defoliants were painted with colored bands — orange, green, pink, white, etc. As the conflict progressed, the term “agent” was prefixed to a given color by the international media to provide a more “mysterious” aura to these chemicals. In time they became known as the “rainbow herbicides.”
In an article in The Japan Times (“Okinawa dump site may be proof of Agent Orange: experts,” Aug. 7), Jon Mitchell writes: “Still, the Pentagon denies that it ever stored military defoliants — including Agent Orange — in Okinawa. In February, it released a 29-page report denying that such substances were ever on the island.”
I place emphasis on the last few words. How can such a denial be factual when 2,4,5-T was discovered in these drums? In support of the Pentagon’s claims, a Dow Chemical representative stated that given the drum volume and their markings, it was inconsistent with the way they shipped herbicides.
I am in possession of a U.S. Department of the Air Force document that clearly shows Dow Chemical in August 1966 shipped 1,866 30-gallon drums of herbicide destined for Saigon. Consequently, the Pentagon and Dow are either confused or clearly in error regarding their claims.
READ MORE: Evidence
Dr. Wayne Dwernychuk is an environmental scientist based in Canada.

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