Monday, June 29, 2015

House Panel Approves Toxic Chemical Safety Bill

The House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced a toxic chemical safety bill on a nearly unanimous vote on Wednesday, clearing the bill to hit the House floor by the end of the month. 
The TCSA Modernization Act would overhaul the federal Toxic Substances Control Act for the fist time in decades. The bill would force the Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate chemicals in consumer goods and quickly issue risk management regulations on them. Those rules would apply nationally, but the bill also gives states the chance to issue their own regulations.
Manufacturers would also be allowed to petition the EPA to issue a ruling on the safety of the chemicals in their products.     

Listen to Betty Mekdeci

WWII Veteran Mustard Gas Exposures
During World War II both sides produced millions of tons of chemical agents and also made preparations for their use but never employed them in combat. The United States focused its research on the development of protective clothing and skin ointments that would prevent or lessen the severe blistering of mustard agents.

There were three basic types of experiments that potentially exposed Service members:
1. Patch or drop tests. These were the most common tests and the Chemical Warfare Service used them to evaluate the effectiveness of protective or decontamination ointments in protecting against or treating mustard agent burns. These tests also evaluated how multiple exposures affected an individual’s sensitivity to mustard burns and the effects of physical exercise on these burns. Additionally, a drop of mustard agent was commonly applied to the forearms of basic trainees to impress them with the toxicity of the agent and the need to take appropriate action if exposed.
2. Chamber tests. These tests evaluated the effectiveness of protective clothing against mustard agent.
3. Field tests. These tests involved the contamination of an area of land with blister agent. Human subjects traversed this terrain to test protective clothing, to monitor the effects of agent on animals in the test site, and to measure agent concentrations in soil and water samples.
Table 1 below shows the location of known major test facilities during World War II.

Location- Type of Experiment
Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland - Chamber, patch tests, Small scale field tests
Bainbridge, Maryland - Chamber tests
Dugway Proving Ground, Utah - Large scale field tests
Camp Sibert, Alabama - Chamber and patch tests
Naval Research Laboratory, Virginia - Chamber and patch tests
Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Illinois - Chamber and patch tests
Camp Lejeune, North Carolina - Chamber tests
San Jose Island, Panama Canal Zone - Chamber tests, Large scale field tests
Bushnell, Florida - Large scale field tests

U.S. too little, too late with Agent Orange benefits
So, the U.S. government has finally decided to help some 2,000 Air Force personnel exposed to Agent Orange residue left over in airplanes used during the Vietnam War. They are now eligible for disability, medical and survivor benefits.
“Opening up eligibility for this deserving group of Air Force veterans and reservists is the right thing to do,” VA Secretary Bob McDonald announced.
Really? Then why didn’t the VA take this step long ago? These new recipients flew in Fairchild C-123 aircraft from 1969 to 1986. That’s between 46 and 29 years ago!
And if it’s the “right thing to do” for those folks, then what about the countless other Vietnam era military personnel whose cries for help have been ignored even though they suffer from some or many of the 14 diseases needed to claim Agent Orange benefits?
The long standing rule says if a veteran had boots on-the-ground in Vietnam, they are automatically accepted for special benefits. All others making Agent Orange disability claims have to prove they handled the toxic chemical or worked near it.
Over the decades, I have spoken to dozens of vets who suffer from an “approved” disease. Among them: Hodgkin’s, Parkinson’s, prostate or respiratory cancers, soft tissue sarcoma, diabetes mellitus (Type 2), chronic B-cell leukemia, ischemic heart disease and debilitating chloracne. Many fear they have passed their ill health on to their children and grandchildren.
These veterans are ignored, according to the few lawyers willing to challenge the VA on their behalf, because the Defense Department claims they can find no records proving they were in proximity to Agent Orange. Records were poorly kept, lost and, in at least one case, destroyed by fire.
If ever there was a deserving group of citizens with a reason to sue for redress this is it.
But, oh yeah, the U.S. government is conveniently immune from lawsuits.
These men and women who loyally served their country are convinced that the government’s strategy has been to, “Deny, deny, until they die,” since Agent Orange benefits already account for one out of six disability checks issued by the VA.
Take the case of Air Force Master Sergeant LeRoy Foster who spent 10 years (from 1968 to 1978) assigned to the 43rd Supply Squadron at Anderson Air Force Base in Guam. His duties included spraying herbicides around the base to get rid of weeds.
In sworn testimony to the U.S. Congress, and in several affidavits to the VA, Foster swore that Agent Orange – which contains deadly TCDD dioxin – was among the defoliants he regularly loaded into his 750 gallon trailer-mounted sprayer and dispersed base-wide. Other military personnel on Guam at the time – like Sgt. Ralph Stanton – confirm the account and reported they were “routinely soaked” by Foster’s spray.
They gave me personal photographs from their days at Anderson AFB showing stacks of chemical barrels they swore carried the telltale Agent Orange markings. Other photos showed GIs cooking on barbecue grills fashioned out of the empty drums.
A U.S. government analysis of the island’s soil confirmed the presence of Agent Orange toxins. Guam has an extraordinarily high cancer rate.
Yet, to this day, the DOD maintains it has no records proving the military ever transported Agent Orange to that strategically important Vietnam era island.
The Pentagon also denies Agent Orange was ever present on Okinawa, another location U.S. vets maintain was an AO hot spot where they first began to experience major health issues.
Checking in this week with Foster and Stanton I discovered both men were still alive but deathly ill. Foster is battling devastating rectal cancer.
“I am down to 150 (pounds) now,” Foster wrote. “The weight is falling off of me. I believe there is no reversing it.”
Stanton wrote of his health, “It’s kind of like a juggling act because of the number of things wrong with me.”
Hundreds of Guam and Okinawa based veterans have filed VA claims citing exposure to Agent Orange as the cause of their health problems, but the vast majority were rejected. And none of the 200,000 so-called “Blue Water” vets who say they were exposed to Agent Orange while serving aboard deep-water naval vessels stationed off Vietnam’s coast has been awarded special benefits.
Who can’t be happy for the 2,000 Air Force vets who were recently added to the Agent Orange rolls? But excuse me if I don’t applaud the VA’s massively delinquent action.
Our government did a terrible thing when it continued to spray millions of gallons of deadly Agent Orange long after it was clear it caused devastating health problems. But what’s worse is its obstinate refusal over the years to take full responsibility for all sick and dying veterans.
Deny, deny until they die. Shameful.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Are you a Vietnam veteran? Help us investigate the impact of Agent Orange

ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot are exploring the ways children of Vietnam veterans may be affected by a parent's exposure to Agent Orange.
The Department of Veterans Affairs acknowledges that direct exposure to Agent Orange and other defoliants may lead to negative health consequences for veterans. Some veterans’ service organizations, including the Vietnam Veterans of America, have expressed concern that exposure has also led to health issues in the children of veterans.
Are you a Vietnam veteran, or the child of a veteran? You can help us learn more about this issue by completing this short survey, which includes questions about your service, family and health. Please answer as completely as you can. Your personal information will not be shared with others without your permission, but reporters plan to aggregate statistical information and publish an overview about the results of the survey, without identifying specific individuals.
The more veterans we hear from, the better we can understand this issue. We hope you’ll consider responding or sharing this survey with other veterans. Thank you!

Dangerous Chemical? World Health Organization (WHO) Examines Big Ag’s 2,4-D Herbicide Used in Agent Orange
When the World Health Organization recently declared that the herbicide ingredient glyphosate was ‘probably carcinogenic,’ numerous countries responded with bans, serious inquiries, and boycotts of Monsanto’s Roundup. Now, the WHO is now set to review another Big Ag chemical, 2,4-D, just three months after Monsanto was delivered news it couldn’t swallow. You can bet Big Ag is nervous.
It isn’t as if this ‘bad’ news is ‘big news’ to most of us in the GMO-awareness movement. We’ve been sounding the warning sirens about these products for decades. What matters is that a WHO declaration that a product is cancerous finally gives government agencies and local municipalities the extra ‘oomph’ they need to take decisive action against agribusiness companies who are poisoning us and the planet.
The herbicide 2,4-D is set to be examined by twenty-four scientists representing the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
The review will occur at a meeting scheduled for June 2nd– 9th in Lyon, France.
A totally separate group of IARC scientists were the ones who delivered a death blow to Monsanto, but a joyful recognition to all those who have been negatively affected by Big Ag chemicals. It meant that things were finally changing.
Many believe the new scientific panel could deliver a similar fate to makers of 2,4-D, the main ingredient used in Vietnam, known around the world as Agent Orange.
Michael Hansen, a senior scientist at Consumers Union believes they will upgrade 2,4-D’s status as a dangerous chemical, which would then prompt a similar reaction to Monsanto’s Glyphosate – bans, consumer boycotts, and more.
With the obvious reference in our history of the Vietnam War, the case for 2,4-D is even more open and shut than with glyphosate. Dow representatives say there is no cancer link, but IARC scientists Maria Leon, and others, say that there are multiple cancer connections triggered by 2,4-D exposure.
Should the WHO’s declaration concerning 2,4-D be similar to that given for glyphosate, that means first Monsanto, and then Dow Chemical would be knocked down to size within months. Big Ag, the world is asking for you to pay your karmic debt. It starts now.

WA Government agrees to examine new information on Agent Orange legacy
WA Agriculture Minister Ken Baston says he will examine any new information on reports of generational health problems from toxic chemicals linked to Agent Orange in the Kimberley.
During the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of mostly Indigenous men were employed by the Agricultural Protection Board to eradicate weeds across parts of the West Kimberley.
With no protection gear offered for much of that time the men were routinely exposed to the now banned substance 2-4-5-T, an ingredient in the defoliant Agent Orange.
Families of the workers have continued to report ill-health, and believe the chemicals were responsible for a range of illnesses affecting the workers' partners, children and grandchildren.
Mr Baston said there had been a considerable amount of health and scientific work done on the issue over a long period of time.
"If claimants have any new information it should be presented to Government ... and supported by appropriate documentation by health professionals, so it can be examined," he said.
After three inquiries in the early 2000s the then government offered a "fast track" compensation option for those affected.
Around 70 men have since applied but only eight have been compensated, all former workers with cancer.

US chemical companies try to delay AO lawsuit in France
US chemical companies sued by an Agent Orange victim living in France are trying to delay the lawsuit’s progress by questioning the accuracy of documents submitted by the plaintiff.
Bertrand Repolt, who represented the plaintiff’s team of lawyers at the latest court hearing on the lawsuit at the Ervy Court in France, said the lawyers of 26 US companies demanded clear evidence for the documents attached to the petition.
According to Repolt, this is a tactic aimed at delaying the process and tiring the plaintiff’s side out, which is worrying as the health of the 73-year-old plaintiff is deteriorating due to many diseases she acquired as a consequence of exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin.
The lawyer noted that whether the evidence is persuasive will be discussed during the trial, when lawyers of both side present their arguments. Therefore, the demand that detailed evidence be included in the petition is made just with the intention of delaying the hearing process, he said.
Speaking to the media outside the courtroom, plaintiff Tran To Nga said she filed the lawsuit not for her own interest but for other Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange/dioxin who are suffering from the after-effects of the toxic chemical without the means for treatment. She affirmed her resolve to pursue the lawsuit despite all the difficulties.
Nicolas Jaillard from France Television said he has been following the case, which was reported on France 24 channel.
Two independent film makers from the US, Sylvie Jacquemin and Milena Doleno said they are working on a film about the lawsuit for the New-York-based Films for Humanity.
In May 2014, Vietnamese-French Tran Thi To Nga, born in 1942, filed a lawsuit against 26 US chemical firms for producing chemical toxins sprayed by the US army in the war in Vietnam, causing serious consequences for the community, her and her children.
Tran To Nga graduated from a Hanoi university in 1966 and became a war correspondent of the Liberation News Agency. She worked in some of the most heavily AO/Dioxin affected areas in southern Vietnam such as Cu Chi, Ben Cat and along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, ultimately experiencing effects of contamination.
Among her three children, the first child died of heart defects while the second suffered from a blood disease.
In 2009, Nga, who contracted a number of acute diseases, appeared as a witness at the Court of Public Opinion in Paris, France against US chemical companies.
The complaint and related documents were handed over to the Crown Court of Evry city in the suburb of Paris.
From 1961-1971, US troops sprayed more than 80 million litres of herbicides—44 million litres of which were AO containing nearly 370 kilograms of dioxin—over southern Vietnam.
As a result, around 4.8 million Vietnamese were exposed to the toxic chemical. Many of the victims have died, while millions of their descendants are living with deformities and diseases as a direct result of the chemical’s effects.

Monday, June 22, 2015

H.R. 1769 - Call your Representatives TODAY!

H.R. 1769 - Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015

(joined Apr 14, 2015)
(joined Apr 14, 2015)
(joined Apr 21, 2015)
(joined Apr 21, 2015)
(joined Apr 21, 2015)
(joined Apr 21, 2015)
(joined Apr 21, 2015)
(joined Apr 21, 2015)
(joined Apr 22, 2015)
(joined Apr 22, 2015)
(joined Apr 22, 2015)
(joined Apr 28, 2015)
(joined Apr 28, 2015)
(joined Apr 28, 2015)
(joined Apr 28, 2015)
(joined Apr 29, 2015)
(joined Apr 29, 2015)
(joined Apr 29, 2015)
(joined Apr 29, 2015)
(joined Apr 30, 2015)
(joined Apr 30, 2015)
(joined May 12, 2015)
(joined May 12, 2015)
(joined May 12, 2015)
(joined May 13, 2015)
(joined May 13, 2015)
(joined May 13, 2015)
(joined May 19, 2015)
(joined May 19, 2015)
(joined May 20, 2015)
(joined May 20, 2015)
(joined May 22, 2015)
(joined Jun 1, 2015)
(joined Jun 1, 2015)
(joined Jun 1, 2015)
(joined Jun 1, 2015)
(joined Jun 2, 2015)
(joined Jun 2, 2015)
(joined Jun 2, 2015)
(joined Jun 2, 2015)
(joined Jun 3, 2015)
(joined Jun 3, 2015)
(joined Jun 3, 2015)
(joined Jun 9, 2015)
(joined Jun 9, 2015)
(joined Jun 9, 2015)
(joined Jun 16, 2015)
(joined Jun 16, 2015)
(joined Jun 16, 2015)
(joined Jun 16, 2015)
(joined Jun 17, 2015)
(joined Jun 17, 2015)

S. 901 - Call your Senators TODAY!

S. 901 Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015
(joined Apr 13, 2015)
(joined Apr 15, 2015)
(joined Apr 20, 2015)
(joined Apr 27, 2015)
(joined May 14, 2015)
(joined Jun 9, 2015)
(joined Jun 10, 2015)
(joined Jun 10, 2015)
(joined Jun 10, 2015)
(joined Jun 10, 2015

Finally: More benefits for vets exposed to herbicide
The federal government has finally done the right thing for veterans exposed to Agent Orange, a cancer-causing chemical herbicide used by the military during the Vietnam War, by expanding the eligibility for affected Air Force veterans and reservists.
Last week, the Department of Veterans Affairs expanded eligibility of some benefits for certain Air Force veterans and Air Force reservists who worked on C-123 aircraft during and after the war. The planes were used as part of an operation that involved spraying the toxic herbicide to destroy foliage.
The decision to expand benefits was made following a report by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine that states as many as 1,500 to 2,100 Air Force members were exposed to the herbicide. The report stated samples taken from the aircraft showed the presence of Agent Orange residue, and that hundreds of Air Force reservists trained and worked on the aircraft following the war.
The Department of Veterans Affairs considered these reservists ineligible for health care and disability coverage under the Agent Orange Act of 1991.
"I applaud the VA for taking this step to provide support for our veterans that worked on these contaminated aircraft," said Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo. "I urge any of our eligible veterans on Guam to file a claim with the VA to get the benefits they are entitled to."
In 2002, the federal government for the first time publicly acknowledged that service members may have been exposed to Agent Orange while at military bases that tested or stored the herbicide, such as Andersen Air Force Base.
We urge all veterans who may have been exposed to this cancer-causing chemical, or their survivors, to step forward and apply for the benefits.
Our veterans have sacrificed so much for all of us, and for the nation, and they deserve every benefit to which they are entitled. That is doubly true to those who were exposed to cancer-causing chemicals by their own government.
• Learn more and apply for benefits:
• Call the VA's Special C-123 Hotline at 1-800-749-8387

Agent Orange' legacy continues to haunt next generation of West Kimberley families
A weed-spraying program that used toxic chemicals linked to Agent Orange continues to haunt families in Western Australia's Kimberley.
Groups of men - many of them now dead - sprayed the chemicals wearing little more than shorts and singlets during the 1970s and '80s.
Standing in the Derby cemetery looking down over the graves of two of her children and one grandchild, Lena Buckle-Fraser says she will never forget the smell.
The memory of that toxic scent is now associated with only one thing for the Derby elder - death.

"I lost my third son Lance in 1998, my daughter in 2001 and Kingsley, my grandchild, in 2010," she said.
"I know it was that Agent Orange that killed them."
In the early 1970s the WA Agriculture Protection Board hired more than 300 men to eradicate the weeds, Noogoora Burr and Parkinsonia, that were affecting livestock across northern WA.
The herbicide the men were spraying contained the now-banned substance 245T - an ingredient in the defoliant Agent Orange.
Ms Buckle-Fraser lived with her five children next door to where she said the trucks that held the barrels of the substance were parked and stored over the wet season.
"When the rain would come it would wash all the residue off the drums and into my yard," she said.
"There was a hollow where the clothesline was and the children use to play in that."

Friday, June 19, 2015

C-123 Agent Orange Benefit Questions

Individuals with specific benefit questions related to herbicide exposure on C-123s may call VA’s special C-123 Hotline at 1-800-749-8387 or e-mail

For more information on applying for these benefits, including the affected units, Air Force Specialty Codes and dates of service for affected crew members, and a listing of Agent Orange-related conditions, visit

Locations of US Bases Involving Agent Orange Exposure
The Department of Veterans Affairs said Thursday it will provide millions of dollars in disability benefits to as many as 2,100 Air Force reservists and active-duty forces exposed to Agent Orange residue on C-123 planes that had been used in the Vietnam War.
Dates and locations of eligible Air Force personnel, both in U.S. and abroad:
—Reserve units, Pittsburgh International Airport, Pennsylvania, USAF Reserve Station, 1972-1982
—Reserve units, Westover Air Force Base, Massachusetts, and Hanscom Field AFB, Massachusetts, 1972-1982
—Reserve units, Lockbourne/Rickenbacker AFB, Ohio, 1969-1986
—Active-duty units, Hurlburt Auxiliary Field, Eglin AFB, Florida, 1970-1973
—Active-duty units, Langley AFB, Virginia, 1962-1963, 1970-1973
—Active-duty units, Luke AFB, Arizona, 1970-1973
—Active-duty units, Tainan Air Field, Taiwan, 1969-1970
—Active-duty units, Howard AFB, Panama, 1970-1973
—Active-duty units, Osan Air Base, South Korea, 1970-1973
—Active-duty units, Clark AFB, Philippines, 1969-1970
Source: Department of Veterans Affairs

VA to grant benefits for Agent Orange exposure
After years of battling the Veterans Affairs Department for health care and compensation for illnesses related to Agent Orange exposure from aircraft flown after the Vietnam War, a group of up to 2,100 Air Force personnel and reservists finally will receive service-connected benefits.
VA announced Thursday it will expand eligibility for benefits to Air Force members who flew in C-123 aircraft after they were used in Vietnam to spray the toxic herbicide.

The move could provide health care and disability payments for 1,500 to 2,100 former service members, some of whom are suffering illnesses listed among the 14 presumed to be related to Agent Orange exposure.
Earlier this year, the Institute of Medicine concluded that the veterans had been exposed to dioxins in Agent Orange while flying the aircraft after they had been used in Operation Ranch Hand.
The report's conclusions were similar to those reached by another federal agency in 2012.
But VA has insisted for years that trace amounts of dioxin on internal aircraft surfaces were not "biologically available for skin absorption or inhalation because dioxin is not water- or sweat-soluble and does not give off airborne particles."
VA paid multiple consultants and the Institute of Medicine more than $1 million to study the issue, all the while denying claims or questioning their validity.
At one point, Alan Young, a consultant hired by the Veterans Benefit Administration to study possible exposure on the aircraft, labeled the airmen seeking compensation "freeloaders" and said the only reason the reservists were seeking presumptive compensation is so they could "cash in on tax-free money for health issues that originate from their lifestyles and aging."
"There was no exposure to Agent Orange or the dioxin but that doesn't stop them from concocting exposure stories hoping some congressional member will feel sorry for them," Young wrote in an email in 2011.
But Air Force documents dating as far back as 1994 noted that tests on at least one C-123 aircraft came up positive for dioxin; in fact, the Air Force destroyed 18 of the aircraft in 2010, smelting them out of concerns about potential liability for Agent Orange, according to service documents.
Still, it took years for VA to do an about-face. But now that has happened, according to the newly published regulation. Veterans will be eligible to file claims starting Friday.
VA Secretary Bob McDonald called the personnel a "deserving group of Air Force veterans and reservists," saying that ruling their illnesses are service-connected is "the right thing to do."
"We thank the IOM for its thorough review that provided the supporting evidence needed to ensure we can now fully compensate any former crew member who develops an Agent Orange-related disability," McDonald said in a statement released Thursday.

Texas Caps Penalties for Environmental Polluters (CN) - Big industry got a big win in Texas on Tuesday as Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill that limits the civil penalties counties can recover from polluters.
House Bill 1794 will become law on Sept. 1. It caps the amount local governments can recover from companies or individuals that violate the state's Water Code and Health and Safety Code to $2.15 million, and narrows the time counties can bring such lawsuits to five years after the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality gives notice of an alleged violation.
Critics say the bill guts counties' ability to hold accountable those who have fouled the environment and endangered public health, and that the TCEQ doesn't have the resources to litigate the typically complex cases.
"It is a terrible bill, and it is designed to protect polluters. That's all it is: It is a polluter protection bill," Terry O'Rourke, prosecutor with the Harris County attorney's office, told The Texas Tribune.
All five of the bill's authors are Republican, including Rep. Charlie Geren of Fort Worth. Geren told the Tribune that Harris County prosecutors have been "abusing" the authority Texas gave counties nearly 50 years ago to sue companies for violating environmental laws.
Harris County encompasses the Port of Houston, which according to the Port's website "is home to a $15 billion petrochemical complex, the largest in the nation and second largest in the world."
Harris County has filed about 10 pollution lawsuits every year for the past five years, netting an average of $61,000 in penalties, the Tribune reported. The county employs four attorneys in its environmental enforcement division and they are kept busy with around 1,500 citizen complaints a year, the newspaper said.
Every environmental lawsuit brought in Texas must include the TCEQ as a "necessary and indispensable party." Harris County and state prosecutors recently negotiated a $29.2 million settlement with Waste Management Inc., of Houston, and McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corp. for polluting the San Jacinto River with dioxin-laced wastewater. Dioxin is a known carcinogen.
Bringing this kind of case may be off limits for Texas counties after Sept. 1 since the dioxin pollution dates back to the 1960s and the new law sets the statute of limitations at five years.
Under the new law, the first $4.3 million in penalties will be split evenly between the county and state, and anything above $4.3 million will go to Texas.
 Supporters of the bill said it helps Texas' sales pitch as an industry-friendly state, as it removes excessive penalties that could scare away companies.
They also claim civil penalties don't help the victims of pollution since they go into state and county coffers, and because they can be assessed in addition to clean-up costs, they detract from remediation efforts.
Environmentalists say the new civil penalty limits could lead polluting companies to strategically eat those costs, rather than paying cleanup tabs that can escalate into the hundreds of millions of dollars.