Saturday, January 10, 2015

Report: C-123 fliers exposed to Agent Orange
Air Force Reserve members who flew C-123 aircraft after they were used for spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam were exposed to the toxic herbicide and may be at risk for developing related diseases, according to a federal study released Friday.
An Institute of Medicine scientific panel comprised of public health experts stated "with confidence" that some of the 1,500 to 2,100 Air Force Reserve personnel who flew on C-123s after the war were exposed to chemical levels that exceed health guidelines for workers.
Subsequently, they may face increased risk for developing illnesses associated with exposure to the components of Agent Orange, according to the study.
The findings — from a group led by Harvard Public Health expert Robert Herrick — are a hard-fought victory for a small group of former service members who have lobbied for years to be included among those presumed to be exposed to Agent Orange as a result of their military service.
Led by retired Air Force Maj. Wes Carter, the members of the C-123 Veterans Association have pushed the Veterans Affairs Department to recognize illnesses they've developed and say are related to exposure.
But VA consistently has maintained that trace amounts of dioxin on the metal surfaces in the aircraft, which were stripped of their spraying apparatus after the war, would not pose a threat to troops because it is not "biologically available for skin absorption or inhalation."
The VA's stand, according to the department's C-123 exposure website is that "although residual TCDD — the toxic substance in Agent Orange — may be detected in C-123 aircraft by sophisticated laboratory techniques many years after its use, the [VA] concluded that the existing scientific studies and reports support a low probability that TCDD was biologically available in these aircraft. Therefore, the potential for exposure to TCDD from flying or working in contaminated C-123 aircraft years after the Vietnam War is unlikely to have occurred at levels that could affect health."
But according to Carter and the Vietnam Veterans of America, at least 10 C-123 crewmen who flew in the aircraft after the war have died of cancers commonly linked to Agent Orange.

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