Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Full House Committee on Veterans Affairs marks up H.R. 1769, the Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015

Vietnam Veterans of America - Legislative Update

February 23, 2016

H.R. 1769, the Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015,  will be marked up on February 25, 2016 by the full House Committee on Veterans Affairs  in room 334 Cannon House Office building at 10:30 am

Cora Launches Organic Tampons To Fight Dangerous Toxins In Female Hygiene Products

The average American woman uses more than 16,000 tampons in her lifetime and one thing they continue to be wary of is the amount of dioxins in tampons. Dioxins are thought to be caused by the bleaching processes involved in creating the fabric of tampons, usually cotton, rayon or blends of the two.  According to the FDA, at one time bleaching wood pulp was a potential source of very small amounts of dioxin in tampons, but that bleaching method is no longer used. The kind of bleaching that is used now, known as elemental chlorine-free bleaching, is thought to eliminate the dioxin problem. The FDA says if it does release any, it’s at extremely low levels—levels it says do not present a health risk.
But another potential health problem, Toxic Shock Syndrome, might be caused by the use of synthetic materials in tampons. TSS surfaced in 1978, and it is a complication of a bacterial infection that can happen from wearing a tampon for too long, especially a large size tampon. It was thought to have been largely eliminated but in 2012 the model Lauren Wasser nearly died from it, and had to have a leg amputated. Her family is suing Kimberly-Clark Corporation, which manufactures the tampons that allowed bacteria to flourish and Wasser to become sick with TSS. The family believes the use of synthetic materials in the tampon put Lauren at risk and puts other women at risk too

BREAKING NEWS: Blue water sailor wins agent orange benefits

It took six years and an aggressive attorney, but a Blue Water Sailor has finally been given full benefits for Agent Orange exposure.
When the sailor first applied in 2010 for benefits for ischemic heart disease due to AO exposure, the response was typical: The VA said no because he’d been on a carrier out at sea. He continued to appeal. And appeal. And appeal.
The VA finally told him to either go away or go to court. Naturally he chose court and got an attorney. The VA was ordered to take another look at the facts and finally decided that 100 percent disability for ischemic heart disease due to AO exposure was appropriate, backdated to when symptoms first appeared, many years earlier.
If you were on a ship near Vietnam, the questions to consider are: If you were assigned to a ship and were flown out to it, where had the plane been? Was the plane contaminated and bringing AO every time it landed on a carrier? Did you unload cargo from those planes or work on them? Did the ship ever bring on fresh fruits and vegetables? Did the ship ever dock? Did it take on water for distillation inside the 12-mile limit? Did your mail and supplies sit on the runway near the AO storage area in Da Nang?
Meanwhile, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (HR-969) was recently introduced in the House of Representatives. The legislation will give AO presumptives to sailors and Marines who served in offshore waters of Vietnam.
If you’re fighting the VA, go online to The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program []. You can hook up with a specially trained attorney – for free – who will take your case. You’ll pay nothing unless you win back entitlement.

Give 'blue water veterans' health coverage they need, deserve

Last week, Rep. Joe Courtney(D), (CT-2), called for congressional action to help so-called blue water Navy veterans — those who served in territorial waters overseas during the Vietnam War, and who may suffer illnesses linked to exposure to Agent Orange.

That these veterans lack full Veterans Administration coverage for these illnesses is a national disgrace, and Congress can and should act swiftly to remedy the situation.

The VA presumes that any veteran who served on land or in Vietnam’s inland waters was exposed toAgent Orange, the toxic herbicide used for a decade during the war. Those veterans are compensated for any of a bevy of illnesses associated with and presumed linked to exposure, including diabetes, cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

Blue water vets, however, are excluded; the VA maintains there is no scientific basis or legal justification to cover them. But advocates say Agent Orange — which contains dioxin, a potent toxin — ran off into the sea where it was sucked up and distilled by Navy vessels and used for drinking, bathing and laundry. The distillation process only concentrated the dioxin.

The Agent Orange Act of 1991 originally covered blue water veterans, but the VA changed its interpretation in 2002 to exclude them. That decision withstood a 2008 court challenge, and in April, an appeals court ordered the VA to review the policy. But earlier this month, the administration announced it had decided to maintain its policy limiting blue water veterans’ coverage.

One of the bases of the VA’s position is a 2011 Institute of Medicine report which did not find sufficient evidence to support extending presumption of exposure to the offshore Navy vets. Incidentally, that report also identified plausible pathways by which Agent Orange could have traveled to sea and into ships’ distillation systems.

In other words, there isn’t a scientific guarantee that blue water veterans were exposed to Agent Orange, but there a credible possibility. In our view, when it comes to veterans’ well-being, the VA ought to be erring on the side of caution — not excluding some because absolute scientific certainty isn’t there.

Those who served the country in the armed forces deserve the benefit of the doubt.

That’s our opinion. What’s yours? Email

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A word from our sponsor...

Blue Water Navy bill (H.R. 969) held up in VAC

Congress House Bill HR-969 and Senate Bill S.681, both Bills titled The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Agent Orange Act. These bills are held up in the Veterans Affairs Committee because no dollar amount has been assigned, the cost to provide proper VA benefits, without a dollar amount assigned to these bills nothing will happen to provide VA benefits to veterans who are sick from Agent Orange exposure.
At this writing there are 301 members of Congress in favor of passage and 37 members of Senate in favor. This is well over the numbers of both Houses needed to send the bills to the floor for a vote. This cannot happen without a dollar amount assigned. The VA is attempting to stop passage of these bills. The VA’s job and obligation is to help veterans in need, not hinder their obligation as set forth by law. The committees of both legislative Houses may have to appeal to the Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. to stop the VA from blocking any action in getting these bills an acceptable dollar amount. Once this can happen, these bills will go for a vote.
America is a free and sovereign Nation. As such we take on none selfless obligations to help other countries in need. This is well and good, it is a part of what America is about. However, what about our veterans who fight the battles to keep America free? Many come home sick and broken in need of help. When it comes to special veteran groups like the Blue Water Navy, Vietnam, the VA does not recognize them. A legislative bill must be passed to force the VA to care for this group of war veterans.

Toxic ‘hot spot’ near Arcata could impact projects

Chemical leftovers from Humboldt County’s once booming timber industry could create costly delays for two Arcata projects near its marsh and wildlife sanctuary.
One project seeks to construct a dog park at the old Little Lake Industries lumber mill site on South I Street. The other would reuse dredged soils from the bay to create a buffer to protect city properties from sea level rise.
However, recent tests of Humboldt Bay sediment along the marsh found a “hot spot” of harmful compounds known as dioxins, according to Humboldt Baykeeper Director Jennifer Kalt. Dioxins are found in a wood preservative once used by many of the nearly 100 mill sites near Humboldt Bay, which had either spilled or had been dumped into the bay over the decades, Kalt said.
“It was so toxic that it was restricted in the late 1980s,” Kalt said. “It’s only allowed now to be used on power poles.”

USET Passes Resolution in Support of Toxic Research Act

On February 11, the United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc., (USET)—comprised of 26 federally-recognized Tribal Nation members--passed a resolution in support of S.901 and H.R.1769, the Toxic Exposure Research Act, reported Stephen Bowers of the Seminole Tribe of Florida who serves as the chair of the USET Veterans Affairs Committee. “This means our USET Legislative Affairs staff will now start calling congressman and senators to get on board with helping to pass the two bills,” said Bowers, who also serves as liaison to the Florida Governor’s Council on Indian Affairs; as VVA National Minority Affairs Vice Chair for Native Americans; as president of VVA Chapter 23; and as president of the American Indian Veterans Memorial Initiative.
 View the groups in support of H.R.1759 and S. 901

IOM Panel: Stop Searching for Links between Toxic Exposures & Gulf War Illnesses

A scientific panel has concluded that the Veterans Affairs Department should stop searching for links between environmental exposures in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and veterans’ illnesses and instead focus on monitoring and treating those who have health problems related to deploying 25 years ago.

In a report released Thursday, Institute of Medicine researchers said Gulf War veterans are at increased risk for developing some physical and psychological health conditions like post-traumatic stress, anxiety, Gulf War illness and chronic fatigue syndrome, but other diseases like cancer, respiratory illnesses and most neurodegenerative conditions do not appear to occur at higher rates in these former troops.
Without concrete information on each Gulf War veteran’s exposure and the unlikely prospect of ever having the data, VA should focus instead on following this group as members age and treat illnesses that develop, panelists said.
According to the report, the federal government has spent more than $500 million since 1994 to study Gulf War veterans' health but “there has been little substantial progress in our overall understanding of the health effects” from the 1990-1991 deployments.
Thus, “without definitive and verifiable individual veteran exposure information, further studies to determine cause-and-effect relationships between Gulf War exposures and health conditions in Gulf War veterans should not be undertaken,” wrote the panel of researchers, including experts in environmental health, epidemiology and medicine.
Future research, they added, should focus on personalized care for veterans, follow-up assessments and treatment.
The panel's top recommendation also said VA should thoroughly study the “mind-body” connection of disease.
"Any future studies of Gulf War illness should recognize the connections and complex relationships between brain and physical functioning and should not exclude any aspect of the illness with regard to improving its diagnosis and treatment,” panelists noted.
The new report has outraged advocates for veterans who suffer from illnesses stemming from their service in the 1990-1991 operation.
They argue the report reflects a bias among the panel toward VA and panelists were selective in choosing which studies they reviewed for the study, "Gulf War and Health, Volume 10: Update of Health Effects of Serving in the Gulf War, 2016."

EPA Directs Additional Safety Measures for San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site

DALLAS – (Feb. 17, 2016) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new safety requirements for the temporary armored cap at the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund Site in Harris County, Texas. EPA has directed both International Paper and Industrial Maintenance Corporation, the potentially responsible parties (PRPs) for the San Jacinto Waste Pits Superfund site in Harris County, to add 24 hour/7 day a week surveillance and warning buoys around the perimeter of the site boundaries. Inspection protocol requirements will be expanded and double the frequency of required underwater inspections from semi-annual to quarterly. In addition, EPA has instructed the PRPs to conduct additional environmental sampling from the temporary armored cap, sediments, surface water and groundwater. On February 16, the PRPs confirmed their intent to address each of EPA’s directives. In December 2015, EPA’s inspection dive team discovered an area of possible damage to the temporary armored cap. Visual dive operations found displacement in the stone cover of the protective cap but could not fully delineate the damaged area or the full extent of damage to the protective cap. Pursuant to EPA’s direction and oversight, the PRPs delineated a damaged portion of the rock layer measuring 25’ by 22’ (surface area). The precise cause of the damage to the cap is unknown and under investigation. The EPA has employed the assistance of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to further investigate the possible causes of the damage.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

What Lessons Can Vietnam teach Okinawa about U.S. Military Dioxin?

In December 2015, Urasoe City pledged to conduct a survey of former base employees to ascertain the extent of contamination at Camp Kinser, a 2.7 square kilometer US Marine Corps supply base located in the city.1 Urasoe’s director of planning, Shimoji Setsuo, announced that the municipality would work with prefectural authorities to carry out the investigation and he would also request funding from the national government. This is believed to be the first time that such a large-scale survey of former base workers has been launched in Japan.

Triggering Urasoe’s decision were Pentagon documents released under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) revealing serious contamination at Camp Kinser.2 According to the reports, military supplies returned during the Vietnam War leaked substances including dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and insecticides within the base, killing marine life. Subsequent clean-up attempts were so ineffective that U.S. authorities worried that civilian workers may have been poisoned in the 1980s and, as late as 1990, they expressed concern that toxic hotspots remained within the installation.
Following the FOIA release, United States Forces Japan (USFJ) attempted to allay worries about ongoing contamination at Camp Kinser. Spokesperson Tiffany Carter told The Japan Times that “levels of contamination pose no immediate health hazard,” but she refused to provide up-to-date environmental data to support her assurances. Asked whether USFJ would cooperate with Urasoe’s survey, Carter replied that they had not been contacted by city authorities. She also ruled out health checks for past and present Camp Kinser military personnel.3
Last year, suspicions that Camp Kinser remains contaminated were heightened when wildlife captured by Japanese scientists near the base was found to contain high levels of PCBs and the banned insecticide DDT.4

Gulf War Newsletter - Winter 2016

Gulf War Remembered—VA Employees and Veterans Reflect on Experiences
To mark the 25th anniversary of the start of Operation Desert Storm, VA wants to remember and honor those who served by sharing reflections on the war from VA employees—many of whom are also Gulf War Veterans.
Health of Gulf War and Gulf War Era Veterans
The results of a recent survey on the physical and mental health of Gulf War and Gulf War Era Veterans indicate that more than 20 years after the war, Veterans who were deployed continue to report poorer health than Veterans who did not deploy.

Research Spotlight: Can Light Therapy Help the Brain?
Researchers at the VA Boston Healthcare System are testing the effects of light therapy on brain function in Veterans with Gulf War Illness.

Health of Gulf War and Gulf War Era Veterans
The results of a recent survey on the physical and mental health of Gulf War and Gulf War Era Veterans indicate that more than 20 years after the war, Veterans who were deployed continue to report poorer health than Veterans who did not deploy.

- See more at:

The Agent Orange of this Generation

In The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers, Joseph Hickman, a former U.S. Marine and Army sergeant gives a stunning expose of the ongoing health disaster created by the open-air burn pits on military bases throughout Afghanistan and Iraq, calling them the Agent Orange scandal of of our day.
Open air burn pits were created to dispose of trash accumulated on U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan since the onset of the wars. It is estimated that each service member accumulated nine pounds of trash per day.

Fetal Dioxin Exposure Seen to Increase Risk of LUTS Development in Adult Mice

A study published in the journal Toxicological Sciences found that exposure to the common environmental pollutant 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) increased the risk of lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) related to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) in genetically susceptible mice.
TCDD, often referred to simply as dioxin, is one of the most widely spread environmental toxins. It is present in drinking water and, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, stems in large part from backyard burning of waste as well as from manufacturing and refining processes. The chemical is highly toxic and only slowly eliminated from the body, so that exposure to even the low amounts found in the environment are potentially dangerous for human health. The half-life of TCDD in humans is 7–11 years, and experimental animals exposed to higher levels have a delayed or incomplete prostate development. The chemical also increases cancer risk.
Evidence for a fetal origin of prostatic disease is beginning to emerge. To test whether genetically susceptible mice would develop more severe LUTS following TCDD exposure, University of Wisconsin researchers used a mouse with mutations predisposing it to prostate hyperplasia. Pregnant mice received one single dose of TCDD that was low enough not to cause a disruption in prostate development, but high enough to remain in the mice pups throughout weaning.
When male mice were adult, some were also exposed to higher levels of testosterone and estradiol in doses that are known to cause urinary disturbance in mice, and were then allowed to live for four more months. According to the report — titled In utero and Lactational TCDD Exposure Increases Susceptibility to Lower Urinary Tract Dysfunction in Adulthood — the mice that were exposed to TCDD alone had a reduced voiding pressure. Otherwise, TCDD exposure had little effect on the lower urinary tract anatomy or function.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Ex-Freedom Industries Owner Sentenced to 30 Days in Jail, $20,000 Fine

A former executive of a chemical storage facility in West Virginia has been sentenced to 30 days in jail and order to pay a $20,000 fine. The charges stemmed a January 2014 chemical spill that left some 300,000 area residents without water for days.
Former Freedom Industries owner Dennis Farrell will serve time for federal pollution violations.
Four other ex-Freedom officials have been sentenced to probation and ordered to pay fines.
Ex-company President Gary Southern is scheduled to be sentenced next week.
Federal prosecutors brought the case against the company and its top executives after an estimated 7,500 gallons of a coal cleaning chemical leaked from storage tanks and into the Elk River.
The company filed for bankruptcy eight days after the spill. It’s been fined $900,000, although a federal judge said that fine was symbolic due to outstanding debts.

Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses Still Poorly Understood: Report

VA-sponsored study says people should be monitored for ALS, cancer and other diseases that take years to develop
Scientists and doctors still lack good insight into Gulf War illness and other health problems plaguing U.S. veterans of the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, a new report says.
More than $500 million in U.S. government-funded research on Gulf War veterans was conducted between 1994 and 2014, producing many results. But there has been little overall progress in understanding the health effects of serving in that war, according to an Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee.
Echoing conclusions of a 2010 IOM report, the new U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs-sponsored study said Gulf War veterans appear to be at increased risk for Gulf War illness, chronic fatigue syndrome, digestive disorders, and such mental health conditions as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and substance abuse.
The review of available scientific and medical literature also found evidence of a link between Gulf War deployment and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), fibromyalgia, chronic pain and sexual problems.
While ALS -- also called Lou Gehrig's disease -- was the only neurologic disease for which there was evidence of an association with Gulf War service, veterans of that war are still young in terms of the development of degenerative brain diseases.
Therefore, the IOM committee said the VA should continue to monitor Gulf War veterans for degenerative brain diseases that take a long time to develop, such as ALS, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
There was not enough information to determine whether Gulf War veterans are at added risk for cancer, but the committee said the VA should continue to assess cancer rates among these veterans.
Evidence for Gulf War illness has increased in recent years, but there has been little improvement in understanding the disease or how to treat or manage it. A debilitating disorder, its symptoms include fatigue, joint and muscle pain, headaches, concentration and memory difficulties, gastrointestinal problems and skin rashes.

Self-reported Agent Orange exposure higher among veterans with thyroid cancer

Self-reported Agent Orange exposure was more prevalent among patients with thyroid cancer compared with the overall national Veterans Affairs patient population, study results show.
Angela M. Leung, MD, MSc, assistant professor of medicine in the division of endocrinology at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine and VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, and colleagues evaluated data from all U.S. Veterans Health Administration health care sites from October 1999 to 2013 to determine the characteristics of patients with thyroid cancer in relation to Agent Orange exposure. Overall, 19,592 patients with thyroid cancer were included in the study.
During the study period, the prevalence rates of thyroid cancer among veterans was 0.09% for women and 0.098% for men.
Compared with the non-exposed veteran population (6.2%), more veterans self-reported Agent Orange exposure (10%; P < .0001). A history of ionizing radiation was reported by 0.54% of patients with thyroid cancer.
“The study, as the first epidemiologic assessment of thyroid cancer among veterans at the national level, utilizes the [Veterans Health Administration’s] single integrated medical record system and suggests that Agent Orange should be further studied in relationship to thyroid cancer,” the researchers wrote. “Additional research regarding the strength and consistency of this association may lead to a better understanding of the potential relationship between Agent Orange exposure and thyroid cancer within this population.”

Biomonitoring of selected persistent organic pollutants (PCDD/Fs, PCBs and PBDEs) in Finnish and Russian terrestrial and aquatic animal species

The Finnish and Russian animal species (semi-domesticated reindeer, Finnish wild moose, Baltic grey seal and Baltic herring) samples were biomonitored in terrestrial and aquatic environments for polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs).
Results: Grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) was clearly the most contaminated species. The mean PBDE concentration in grey seal was 115 ng/g fat, and the highest WHO-PCDD/F-PCB-TEQ (toxic equivalent set by WHO) was 327 pg/g fat.
In Finnish, reindeer WHO-PCDD/F-TEQ varied from 0.92 pg/g fat in muscle to 90.8 pg/g fat in liver. WHO-PCDD/F-TEQ in moose liver samples was in the range of 0.7–4.26 pg/g fat, and WHO-PCB-TEQ in the range of 0.42–3.34 pg/g fat.
Overall moose had clearly lower PCDD/F and DL-PCB concentrations in their liver than reindeer.
Conclusions: Terrestrial animals generally had low POP concentrations, but in reindeer liver dioxin levels were quite high. All Finnish and Russian reindeer liver samples exceeded the EU maximum level 8 for PCDD/Fs (10 pg/g fat), which is currently set for bovine animals.