Monday, November 28, 2016

Vietnam War veterans attacked by rare cancer linked to liver flukes

DANVILLE  — Mike Baughman considered himself one of the lucky ones, returning from Vietnam without any major injuries or psychological scars. But after falling ill nearly a half-century later, he found out he did not escape the war after all.
The 64-year-old is among hundreds of veterans who have been diagnosed with a rare bile duct cancer that may be linked to their time in the service and an unexpected source: parasites in raw or poorly cooked river fish.
The worms infect an estimated 25 million people, mostly in Asia, but are less known in America. They can easily be wiped out with a few pills early on. Left untreated, a cancer known as cholangiocarcinoma can develop, often killing patients just a few months after symptoms appear.
The U.S. government acknowledges that liver flukes, endemic in the steamy jungles of Vietnam, are likely killing some former soldiers. Ralph Erickson, who heads post-deployment health services at the Department of Veterans Affairs, said about 700 cholangiocarcinoma patients have passed through the agency’s medical system in the past 15 years.
Less than half of those submitted claims for benefits, in part because they were unaware of a potential link to time in service. Of the claims submitted, 3 out of 4 have been rejected, according to data obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act.
The VA requires veterans to show medical conditions are at least “as likely as not” related to their time in service to receive financial help, but doctors note that often isn’t easy with bile duct cancer caused by liver flukes.
The parasites typically go undetected, sometimes living for more than 25 years without making their hosts sick. The body reacts by trying to wall off the organisms. This causes inflammation and scarring and, over time, can lead to cancer. The first symptoms are often jaundice, itchy skin and rapid weight loss. By then, the disease is usually advanced.
If American doctors better understood bile duct cancer and the potential risks to those who served in Vietnam, they could use ultrasounds to check veterans for inflammation, and then surgery might be possible for some of them, said Jeff Bethony, a liver fluke expert at George Washington University.
“Early is key,” he said, adding he regularly receives desperate letters from veterans’ family members. “The VA should be testing for this.”

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Oregon physicians oppose Marion County burning

Doctors and environmentalists oppose a proposal for Marion County to burn Portland garbage in local incinerators. They object to Metro, the regional government for people living in the Portland area, shipping 200,000 tons of waste each year to the Covanta Marion waste-to-energy facility in Brooks.
200,000 tons represents one-fifth of Metro’s yearly solid waste trash.
Metro is considering a change because its contract to ship garbage to an eastern Oregon landfill expires at the end of 2019 and it is seeking new ways of addressing the problem.
The Covinta facility says that if it took on the extra Metro garbage, it would require it doubling the capacity of the plant. Covanta Marion is an Energy-from-Waste facility that creates electricity from garbage it burns at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Its operation provides the county both electricity income.
Americans generate about 4.3 pounds of waste per day, and about 55% of that winds up in landfill. Metro and every other municipality must determine the best way to handle that quantity of garbage – with the most common ways being landfill or burning.
On October 7th, the Environmental Health Working Group of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility (OPSR) sent a formal memo to Metro listing 11 reasons it would be environmentally ill advised to ship garbage to Marion County.
Among other points, OPSR cited data that waste-to-energy incinerators produce more pollution and global warming emissions per unit of electricity that coal fired power plants. It provided statistics from the Energy Justice Network that “to make the same amount of energy as a coal-powered plant, trash incinerators release 28 times as much dioxin than coal, 2.5 times as much carbon dioxide, twice as much carbon monoxide, three times as much nitrogen oxides, 6-14 times as much mercury, nearly six times as much lead and 70% more sulfur dioxides.”
OPSR also said that a group of toxic pollutants from the Covanta plant, nitrogen oxides, were already only 4% below the federal EPA limit in 2011 – 2014. With Marion County recently authorizing 25,000 tons of medical waste from California and Washington State to be burned every year, OPSR suggested that nitrogen oxides emissions would likely accelerate to dangerous levels.

About the Agent Orange Settlement Fund...

the Agent Orange Settlement was created as a result of a private class action lawsuit settlement. It  involved neither VA nor any other executive branch agency of the Federal government. The Settlement Fund closed in 1997.
The Agent Orange Settlement Fund was created by the resolution of the Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation - a class action lawsuit brought by Vietnam Veterans and their families regarding injuries allegedly incurred as a result of the exposure of Vietnam Veterans to chemical herbicides used during the Vietnam war. The suit was brought against the major manufacturers of these herbicides. The class action case was settled out-of-court in 1984 for $180 million dollars, reportedly the largest settlement of its kind at that time.
The Payment Program operated over a period of 6 years, beginning, after appeals, in 1988 and concluding in 1994. During its operation, the Settlement Fund distributed a total of $197 million in cash payments to members of the class in the United States. Of the 105,000 claims received by the Payment Program, approximately 52,000 Vietnam Veterans or their survivors received cash payments which averaged about $3,800 each.
The other part of the Settlement Fund, the Class Assistance Program, was intended by the distribution plan to function as a foundation. Between 1989 and 1996 it distributed, through a series of Requests for Proposal, $74 million to 83 social services organizations throughout the United States. These agencies, which ranged from disability and Veterans service organizations to community-based not-for-profits, provided counseling, advocacy, medical and case-management services. During this period, these organizations assisted over 239,000 Vietnam Veterans and their families.
On September 27, 1997, the District Court ordered the Fund closed, its assets having been fully distributed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thursday, November 17, 2016

New Study Could Pressure VA to Expand Agent Orange Benefits

More than four decades after the end of the Vietnam War, research is still showing the effects of the herbicide Agent Orange. The latest findings: An association between exposure and high blood pressure
A new study has found a close relationship between Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War and high blood pressure, a conclusion that could lead the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to dramatically expand the number of veterans eligible for compensation.
The study, published last week by VA researchers in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found a higher rate of hypertension among members of the Army Chemical Corps who handled Agent Orange during the war compared to those who didn’t. Corps members who served in Vietnam but did not spray the chemicals also had a higher rate of hypertension than their peers who served outside Vietnam.
Both results were statistically significant and add to a body of evidence linking Agent Orange exposure and hypertension.
The findings come 41 years after the close of the Vietnam War and decades since the last supplies of Agent Orange were incinerated. Since then, veterans have become increasingly distrustful of the VA. They maintain that their exposure to Agent Orange, which contained the toxic chemical dioxin, has harmed their own health and has been passed on to their children.
A VA working group has been studying the latest scientific literature since March to determine if any illnesses should be added to the agency’s list of diseases for which vets are automatically entitled to compensation if they served in Vietnam. Specifically, the group has been looking at new evidence linking bladder cancer, under-active thyroid, Parkinson’s-like symptoms and hypertension to Agent Orange exposure.
The VA had been expected to announce its decision this year, but officials now say that will be left to the administration of President-elect Donald Trump.

Opponents of San Jacinto dioxin clean-up granted more time to comment

- Like most folks in Highlands, Charlie Brownfield has given a wide berth to the tons of toxic Dioxin waste buried on the banks and beneath the water of the San Jacinto River.
He's long counted on groceries from Foodtown to fill his pantry and wouldn't touch anything caught in the contaminated water near his home.
"It's polluted. No telling what people got sick from it and never go to the doctor about it. I've got grandkids and great grandkids that might get sick from fish over there, eating out of there and that kind of worries," said Brownfield adding, "They need to clean it up. Get off their rear-end and do something about it."
After years of study, it was the gaping holes discovered in the so-called "protective cap" of the Superfund site which helped convince the EPA that the 600 million pounds of cancer-causing material could not be shielded from violent storm and floods.
Urged on by hundreds of residents and the unanimous support of local congressional leaders, the environmental agency last month proposed hauling the Dioxin waste away and forcing the companies responsible to pay the $100 million tab.
It's a decision Waste Management and their allies have decided to fight, requesting and receiving an extension of 45 days for public comment.
Jackie Young of the San Jacinto River Coalition calls it a stall tactic.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Say No to Monsanto in Tucson

We want healthy economic development in Pima County. But if we are to entice companies here with tax or other benefits we want business and industry that will operate in an above-board manner and will not contaminate our soil, water or air.
Monsanto has a decades-long litany of producing, promoting and distributing some of the deadliest toxins ever created – and shirking responsibility for the tragic consequences of their use. It has been fined for environmental violations and accounting irregularities. The European Union and other countries have banned Monsanto products that are legal in Pima County.
The Pima County administration has been negotiating an agreement with Monsanto in which the county would create a state-authorized “free-trade zone” for Monsanto operations here that would employ only 40 to 60 people. Monsanto would avoid paying full Pima County property taxes.
Less generous county incentives for Caterpillar, Accelerate Diagnostics and World View Enterprises, each of which will have many more local employees than Monsanto, are worthy of support. Other legitimate economic development projects could earn incentives. We should not support a tax break for Monsanto.
This company and its predecessors have had a hand in, and often been a creator of, many of the world’s worst toxic nightmares: PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), early nuclear weaponry, DDT, dioxin, Agent Orange, RoundUp (glyphosate), Lasso (alachlor), and Bovine Growth Hormone. It pioneered and is the world’s leading producer of GMOs, genetically modified organisms.
Richard Elias is a Pima County Supervisor. He represents District Five.

French-Vietnamese woman’s quest for AO victims

A French-Vietnamese woman has returned to her home country to claim damages from the U.S. chemical companies that manufactured Agent Orange, a defoliant used by the U.S. during the American war in Vietnam, and work together with U.S. filmmakers on a documentary about the issue.
Tran To Nga, a 73-year-old French-Vietnamese woman who is herself a victim of AO/Dioxin, returned to Vietnam in August 2015 with French lawyer William Bourdon to call for more support for the lawsuit she filed in France against 26 U.S. chemical manufacturers in June 2014.
On April 16, 2015, a local court in Evry, France, summoned representatives from the U.S. companies involved for the first hearing.
In her complaint, Nga is suing the U.S. companies for providing toxic chemical weapons used by U.S. forces in Vietnam during the war before 1975.
Recent tests conducted in Germany on Nga with the support of the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA) showed that she still carries the dioxin in her blood many decades after her exposure.
Agent Orange/Dioxin is used to refer to the herbicides and defoliants sprayed by the U.S. military to destroy crops and trees in Vietnam during wartime.
Apart from devastating ecological effects, the concentration of toxins in the soil and water in affected areas remains hundreds of times greater than levels considered safe and can still create multiple health problems such as deformities, cancer, mental disability, serious skin diseases, cleft palates, and multiple genetic diseases.
Accompanying Nga during the August 2015 visit to Vietnam were U.S. film director Alan Adelson and cameraman Scott Sinkler.
The film crew are working on a documentary entitled “Ngon Den Ky Dieu” (roughly translated as “A Miracle Lamp”), which depicts Nga’s life, her anguish and her quest for justice for AO victims, as well as the legacy of dioxin in Vietnam.
Nga was a correspondent for the Giai Phong (Liberation) News Agency during the war and was affected by AO while working in various areas sprayed with the toxic substance.

Monday, November 14, 2016

No Agent Orange aid for Blue Water Navy

A deadly dichotomy exists for American veterans.
On Friday, our nation will honor them as heroes with speeches and parades, with rightful respect and recognition.
Yet these words, these sentiments, won’t translate into action the other 364 days of the year, especially on Capitol Hill, for roughly 90,000 sailors who served on the open waters of the Navy during the Vietnam War.
Since 2002, the government has excluded these “Blue Water Navy” vets from receiving disability benefits for their exposure to Agent Orange, a cancer-causing herbicide. While compensation through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) had been extended to them through the Agent Orange Act of 1991, now those who develop illnesses tied to exposure rarely receive the service-related disability payments, unless they can prove shore leave or have a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“If we’re sick, and we have the exact same diseases that are on the Agent Orange list, what else could have caused it?” asked John Rossie, Executive Director of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association. “And that’s a question they can’t and won’t answer.”
Used to clear the jungles of Vietnam between 1961 and 1971, Agent Orange contained cancer-causing dioxins. Exposure to the defoliant has been associated with numerous disorders and cancers, including certain types of leukemia and heart disease, as well as neurological and respiratory illnesses. Studies have shown that even contact with trace amounts can have effects that show up decades later.
Soldiers and sailors who had “boots on the ground” continue to receive the service-related disability benefits due to an accepted tenet, “presumption of exposure.” So do those who sailed select inland waterways, sailors who were part of what is called the Brown Water Navy. But those who sailed on open waters, the Blue Water Navy, are not covered.

Shimizu to offer Vietnam cost-effective way to treat Agent Orange-tainted soil

TOKYO -- Shimizu has developed an efficient and cost-effective way to clean soil in Vietnam that remains contaminated to this day with toxic dioxins from the Vietnam War.
The Japanese civil engineering company will propose to Hanoi that it install a large-scale pilot plant to test the technology. If that proves successful, prospects are high that Shimizu will become involved in soil remediation work in Vietnam. The company is already the leader in Japan with a 20% share of the domestic soil remediation market.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Agent Orange - Still Fighting the Battle


November 5, 2016
Ocean City, Maryland
Contact: Robert Hartman

November 5, 2016
Roseburg, Oregon
Contact: Karen Hostetter
AVVA Chapter 805

November 9, 2016
Santa Maria, California
Contact: Richard Segovia

November 15, 2016
Bend, Oregon
Contact :Wendy Rudy 541 706 2969
Tom Owen  541-619-8187

November 19, 2016
Portland, Oregon
Contact: Gary McAdams 503-577-6639  
Tom Owen  541-619-8187

January 7, 2017
Lebanon, Oregon
Contact: Tom Owen 541-619-8140

April 22, 2017
Greenfield, Massachusetts
Contact: MA State Council
Gumersindo Gomez

Give Vietnam Blue Water Navy Veterans their presumptive rights

In 1977, the first claims of Agent Orange exposure came flooding into the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). But it took 14 years for Congress to actually listen, take action and give our Vietnam veterans the benefits they deserved.
The Agent Orange Act of 1991 was implemented to provide much-needed care to veterans who were exposed to the harmful chemical cocktail Agent Orange. Many of us thought the fight to get the medical attention we deserved was over, but that wasn’t the case. In 2002, the VA amended its initial plan and excluded thousands of “Blue Water” Navy vets -- vets who served right off the coast -- from receiving  our rightful benefits. Because we hadn’t served on land, the VA tried to say we were unlikely to suffer the effects of Agent Orange poisoning.
Even though we didn’t serve on Vietnamese soil, we were still exposed to Agent Orange. In fact, a 2011 study by the National Institute of Medicine found that Blue Water veterans could have been exposed in multiple ways, including via the ships’ water distillation system and through the air. The National Institute of Medicine also stated, “Given the available evidence, the committee recommends that members of the Blue Water Navy should not be excluded from the set of Vietnam-era veterans with presumed herbicide exposure.”
We are asking for your help in urging Congress to pass legislation (House Bill H 969 and Senate Bill S 681)  that will reinstate our right as Vietnam Navy veterans to receive the benefits we deserve for being exposed to this terrible chemical.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


A case has been won in the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in which a veteran was denied service-connection for Parkinson’s disease due to herbicide exposure at Fort McClellan, Alabama. The VA acknowledged that  “facility-wide” use of herbicides at Fort McClellan.
Parkinson's disease is associated with herbicide exposure, but the VA denied service connection stating the Veteran's exposure was "routine."  The Court found the Board had no basis in law to deny benefits to a Veteran simply because the application of herbicides was "routine."  The Court reversed the Board’s decision, meaning VA must award the Veteran service connection for Parkinson’s disease.
This is the first Court reversal of a Board decision for a Fort McClellan herbicide exposure case.  This ruling has the potential to impact the outcomes of other Fort McClellan-Veteran herbicide exposure cases.