Saturday, December 30, 2017

Be Happy in the New Year!

from our staff and volunteers to you and yours...HAPPY NEW YEAR!

VA considering additions for illnesses caused by Agent Orange exposure

WASHINGTON – Although it’s taken more than one year of review, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is considering adding six new suspected diseases to its list of illnesses that are caused by exposure to Agent Orange.
The new diseases include bladder cancer, Parkinsonism (Parkinson-like symptoms), hypothyroidism, stroke and hypertension.
The possible additions were announced in November by U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David J. Shulkin.
“After thoroughly reviewing the National Academy of Medicine latest report … I have made a decision to further explore new presumptive conditions for service connection that may ultimately qualify for disability compensation,” Shulkin said.
Veterans Affairs has recognized certain cancers and other health problems as suspected diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure and other herbicides during military service. When included, veterans and their survivors may be eligible for benefits for the diseases.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Best Wishes

The staff and volunteers of Agent Orange Zone wish you all a Happy Holiday season with family and friends.

Bilirakis Seeks Help for ‘Blue Water’ Navy Veterans

“Blue Water Veterans” are those who served on open sea ships off the shore of Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
WASHINGTON, DC – As a follow-up to his recent request of Secretary David Shulkin to act in accordance with judicial directives and use his administrative authority to extend Agent Orange presumption to Blue Water Navy Veterans, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis has reached out to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.
In a letter Wednesday (Dec. 20), Bilirakis, R-Tarpon Springs, asked that Mulvaneygrant the budgetary flexibility to speed up Shulkin’s ability to extend Agent Orange presumption to those vets.
Blue Water Navy Veterans served in the hostile territorial waters of Vietnam, providing mission critical direct combat support operations. The Veterans Administration has already included presumptive status to those who served on land and waterways close to land, but it has failed to include this small group of Blue Water Navy Veterans, despite the fact that they are suffering from the same diseases as those who served closer to the origin of the toxins.
“This issue boils down to a matter of fairness and equitable treatment of those who have bravely defended our country during war time. They are suffering and deserve the care and benefits they have earned. I will not stop fighting on their behalf until this injustice is rectified,” Bilirakis said.
Bilirakis represents Florida’s 12th Congressional District, which includes all of Pasco and northern parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Why There Might Be Plastic in Your Mussels

Congratulations, earthlings: We’ve polluted the planet’s waters so thoroughly that now even super-remote Arctic mussels subsist on a microplastic-laden diet. The sea up there, which most scientists still consider ecologically “pristine,” is apparently teeming with more than its fair share of the ocean’s estimated 165 million tons of
microscopic synthetic debris. In a new paper studying water pollution, the Norwegian Environment Agency had scientists test every Nordic’s favorite bivalve, and mussels from the Arctic’s Barents Sea ended up containing more bits of degraded plastic than ones tested anywhere else, including in the commercial waterway outside Oslo. It’s a somewhat puzzling development, but researchers tell Reuters that ocean currents and Atlantic winds are likely washing them so far north, where the particles then settle on the seabed — mollusks’ home for their entire sedentary lives.
Previous tests have found microplastics floating off China, South America, Europe, and America’s Pacific Northwest. The Arctic mussels in this study averaged 4.3 bits of plastic pollutants each; off the country’s coastline, that number dropped to 1.8. The authors add that this really shouldn’t be that surprising, since microplastics have been found in mussels “everywhere scientists have looked,” but that doesn’t meant they’re happy about it. “Ten years ago, we had to stop eating seagull eggs due to critical high levels of dioxin. This year, we got a ban on large-size halibut as human food,” one team member tells the Independent Barents Observer. “Now, mussels are in danger of being added to the list.”

Soil tests for Agent Orange in Guam to start early 2018

The United States' joint military command in Guam is to begin collecting soil samples in early 2018 to investigate recent claims Agent Orange was used on the island.
The United States' joint military command in Guam is to begin collecting soil samples in early 2018 to investigate recent claims Agent Orange was used on the island.
The Guam Daily Post reports officials from the Government Accountability Office visited the territory last week to speak with veterans and Guam's Environmental Protection Agency about the allegations that the highly toxic herbicide was used and or stored by the military on Guam during the Vietnam War.
Guam's Environmental Protection Agency had also been gathering information from veterans about where Agent Orange might have been used in order to pinpoint sampling sites.
A spokesperson for the joint US military command Lt. Ian McConnaughey told the Guam Daily Post the US Department of Defense keeps historical records of all its testing and storage of Agent Orange and none of the information indicates its storage or use on Guam.


The military use of herbicides in Vietnam began in 1961, was expanded during 1965 and 1966, and reached a peak from 1967 to 1969. Herbicides were used extensively in Vietnam by the U.S. Air Force's Operation RANCH HAND to defoliate inland hardwood forests, coastal mangrove forests, and cultivated land, by aerial spraying from C-123 cargo/transport aircraft and helicopters. Soldiers also sprayed herbicides on the ground to defoliate the perimeters of base camps and fire bases; this spraying was executed from the rear of trucks and from spray units mounted on the backs of soldiers on foot. Navy riverboats also sprayed herbicides along riverbanks. The purpose of spraying herbicides was to improve the ability to detect enemy base camps and enemy forces along lines of communication and infiltration routes. Spraying was also used to destroy the crops of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.
The code name for the overall herbicide program was TRAIL DUST. The code name RANCH HAND specifically referred to the C-123 herbicide-spraying project.
The different types of herbicide used by U.S. forces in Vietnam were identified by a code name referring to the color of the 4-inch band painted around the 55-gallon drum that contained the chemical. These included Agents Orange, White, Purple, Blue, Pink, and Green. e.g. A 55-gallon drum with an orange band contained 50% n-butyl ester of 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) and 50% n-butyl or isooctyl ester of 2,4,5-T (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid).
Agent Orange accounted for over 60% of the total herbicides disseminated over Vietnam (11.7 million gallons of a total 19.4 million gallons).
Orange contained relatively high levels of an exceedingly poisonous contaminant known as "dioxin" or "TCDD" (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

David Biggs: My Adventures as an Environmental Historian in Vietnam

he plane’s doors opened, and the oppressive heat hit him “like a ton of bricks,” David Biggs said. It was July 4, 1993, and Biggs had just landed on the runway at Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam.
“The airport was a tiny, one-story concrete building that hadn’t been expanded in years,” he added. “You could see all these perfectly circular fish ponds set in the rice fields; the old B-52 bombing strikes had created circular footprints that filled up with water and became fish ponds.”
Then 23 years old, Biggs had left the University of North Carolina only a year earlier with a bachelor’s degree in history and vague plans of attending law school.
“I had been an environmental activist in college, so I was especially interested in environmental law,” said Biggs, now an associate professor of history and public policy at the University of California, Riverside. “But when I graduated, I found there was something about going straight into law school that just didn’t appeal to me. The world was changing fast with the end of the Cold War, and I wanted to be a part of it.”
So instead he refocused his sights on Vietnam, at the time best known in the United States as the site of the longest-running foreign conflict in American military history.
Several years before, in the wake of the passage of the American Homecoming Act granting admission into the United States to Vietnamese-born children of American servicemen, Biggs had volunteered with a group of young Amerasian immigrants who had arrived in his home state. Churches and volunteer groups like Biggs’ helped the immigrants — known in Vietnam as “children of the dust” and often poor, neglected, or orphaned — to learn English, apply for jobs, and become residents.
Partly inspired by that experience and his lifelong interest in history, Biggs’ summertime arrival in Vietnam kicked off a whirlwind adventure. He taught English to Vietnamese students and met leading artists and retired leaders such as Vo Nguyen Giap, the head of the People’s Army during the war. And upon returning home, he enrolled in graduate school at the University of Washington, specializing in Southeast Asian and Vietnamese history.

Taiwan steel firm behind toxic dump in Vietnam fined again

The deadly dump from Formosa’s $11b steel plant in Ha Tinh province sparked one of the country’s worst environmental catastrophes.
Hanoi: A Taiwanese steel firm behind a toxic spill that killed tonnes of fish in central Vietnam last year was fined for a second time for illegally burying “harmful” waste, official sources said on Sunday.
The deadly dump from Formosa’s $11 billion (Dh40 billion) steel plant in Ha Tinh province sparked one of the country’s worst environmental catastrophes, decimating livelihoods along swathes of coastline and prompting months of rare protests in the authoritarian country.
The firm was initially fined $500 million for pouring toxic chemicalsincluding cyanide into the ocean in April 2016, and has now been ordered to pay an additional $25,000 on separate charges of burying harmful solid waste in the ground, according to the official Cong Ly newspaper.
A local contractor will also be fined $20,000 for helping to dispose of the 100 cubic metres of waste, added Cong Ly, the mouthpiece of the Supreme Court.
An official in Ha Tinh province confirmed the latest fine to AFP on Sunday, without providing further details.
The waste was buried in July 2016, and local residents reported seeing trucks ferrying the material to a farm belonging to the contractor hired to dispose of it.

Agent Orange Resources

Research and posting courtesy of Frank Arminio, 1st Vice President, New Jersey State Council, Vietnam Veterans of America, via Paul Sutton.

1. Agent Orange Newsletter - Summer 2017
2. Environmental Exposures Programs and Services for Veterans
3. Agent Orange VHI
4. Environmental Exposure Pocket Card
5. Health and Medicine Division Reports on Agent Orange (Includes all of the IOM/NAS (now National Academy of Medicine) reports from the beginning.

Chemical weapons org starts inquiry

A team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons arrived in Cambodia Sunday night, with officials saying they will investigate chemical weapons dropped by the United States during the Vietnam War.
Cambodian officials first appealed in October to the OPCW, which is the implementing body of the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, complaining about non-lethal CS tear gas bombs found in Svay Rieng.
The presence of the chemical bombs became a contentious point between Cambodia and the United States, with the US Embassy accusing Cambodian officials of politicising the issue amid a general deterioration in relations between the two countries.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Defence Minister Tea Banh said the US has not taken responsibility for its chemical weapons legacy, and identified Mondulkiri, Svay Rieng and Tbong Khmum as the provinces most affected.
Banh told reporters that the OPCW team went to Mondulkiri yesterday, and will begin investigating there today. “This is the successful first step for Cambodia, which used to be victimised, and some ignored us and did not think about our problems. However, this organisation seems to be interested and . . . [can] find a way to neutralise or solve the problem happening in Cambodia,” Banh said.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

VA Decision Ready Claims Program Expands to Include More Types of Claims

WASHINGTON — As part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) ongoing efforts to modernize and improve Veterans’ experience with the disability claims process, VA unveiled its latest enhancements to the Decision Ready Claims (DRC) program, which will expand the pool of Veterans, surviving spouses and service members eligible to participate in the program. 
“These enhancements are another key step in modernizing VA’s benefits delivery to Veterans to a fully digital operating environment,” said VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin. “With electronic claims processing as a foundation, VA’s innovation will improve service to Veterans, their families and survivors.” 
In addition to claims for increased disability compensation (commonly known as claims for increase), Veterans will now be able to file certain claims for direct service connection, presumptive service connection and secondary service connection. Additionally, surviving spouses will be able to file certain claims for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, and transitioning service members will be able to file pre-discharge claims less than 90 days from leaving the military. Veterans who choose to submit their claim under DRC can expect to receive a decision within 30 days from the time VA receives the claim. 
To file under DRC, Veterans must work with an accredited Veteran Service Organization (VSO) representative, who will ensure all supporting evidence — such as medical exams, military service records, etc. — is included with the claim submission. This advance preparation by the VSOs allows claims to be assigned immediately to claims processors for a quick decision. 
In the future, VA aims to expand the DRC program, where possible, to ensure more Veterans can get faster decisions on their claims. For more information about DRC or to find an accredited VSO representative, visit                                                

EPA targets two North Jersey Superfund sites for expedited cleanup

Much of the pollution comes from the former Diamond Alkali facility in Newark during the production of the notorious defoliant known as Agent Orange.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency identified a portion of the Passaic River and Berry’s Creek in the Meadowlands on Friday as two Superfund sites that will receive more "intense attention" from the agency as it decides the best route for cleanups.
The two North Jersey sites are among 21 Superfund sites across the country that have been added to a special list requested by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to receive more immediate focus.

However, the new designation does not provide any additional funding to help with cleanups. And agreements with polluters, which often take years, will have to be secured.
The agency wants to target a nine-mile stretch of the Passaic River – from Belleville north to Clifton and Garfield – contaminated with cancer-causing dioxin.
Within the next month or two, companies and other entities responsible for the pollution are expected to submit to EPA an investigation they have been conducting that includes the nine miles, the agency said Friday evening.
The EPA already ordered polluters last year to conduct a $1.4 billion cleanup of the lower 8.3 miles of the river from Belleville south to Newark Bay.

Military toxins are becoming more harmful to our veterans

Imagine surviving two deployments in Iraq, constantly dodging bombs and enemy gunfire, only to realize that the air you were once thankful to be able to breathe was making you sick. This is what happened to Sergeant Major Rob Bowman, who passed away from cholangiocarcinoma, a rare form of bile duct cancer, at the age of 44.
Unfortunately, as many military families know all too well, Sergeant Major Bowman’s situation is not unique. “Of the 30 men in Rob’s platoon who returned home, nearly one-third of them developed uncommon cancers and medical conditions,” said Coleen Bowman, Rob’s surviving spouse, “and the first doctor we saw confirmed immediately that the cause of Rob’s cancer was environmental, not genetic.”
The environmental exposure Bowman referenced — known as toxic exposures in the military — is of increased interest to lawmakers, advocates, and medical professionals as a result of the frequency with which it is occurring in post-9/11 veterans. However, given the notoriously slow pace of legislative oversight and government-funded medical studies, advocacy groups are now playing an important role in finding answers for military families.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

December 7, 1941

Birth Defect News, courtesy of Betty Mekdeci and Nancy Switzer

Veteran claims three generations of family left with deformities due to nuclear test radiation exposure. Aged just 24, the RAF serviceman was stationed on an island in the Pacific Ocean when Britain tested its first megaton-class thermonuclear bomb.

Betty Mekdeci | Executive Director | 976 Lake Baldwin Lane Suite 104 Orlando FL 32814 | 407-895-0802

50 States Ask Governors to Ban Glyphosate

Mission Viejo, CA - Moms Across America announces a nationwide campaign to ban glyphosate herbicides in all fifty of the United States. Support from Organic Consumers Association, Institute for Responsible Technology and Thinking Moms Revolution, with millions of supporters collectively, urge state governors to protect their residents and children. 
“European Member states, after considering volumes of scientific studies and numerous testimonies by lawyers and researchers, have refused to renew the license for glyphosate. If it is not safe for Europeans, and Malta, Sri Lanka, The Netherlands, and Argentina who have banned glyphosate, then we do not want glyphosate in our United States. We urge our governors to take bold steps like the Governor of Arkansas and Missouri did in banning Dicamba, and ban glyphosate herbicides and toxic chemicals immediately.”- Zen Honeycutt, Executive Director of Moms Across America
Glyphosate herbicides or Monsanto'sRoundUp weed killer, the most widely used herbicide in history, has been proven to cause serious harm to life. Glyphosate has contaminated our planet and is now found in our children's urine, mother's milk, our bloodstreams, and our food, beverages, and water.
In 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization found that glyphosate “is a probable human carcinogen.”
In July of 2017 the California State Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) added glyphosate to its Prop 65 list of known carcinogens.
In October of 2017, after 1 million Europeans requested a ban, 72% of the Members of the European Parliament voted to BAN glyphosate and EU Member states have refused to renew the license.
Malta, Sri Lanka, The Netherlands, and Argentina have banned glyphosate. Many school districts and cities in the United States have already discontinued the use of glyphosate.

Agent Orange, exposed: How U.S. chemical warfare in Vietnam unleashed a slow-moving disaster

In the end, the military campaign was called Operation Ranch Hand, but it originally went by a more appropriately hellish appellation: Operation Hades. As part of this Vietnam War effort, from 1961 to 1971, the United States sprayed over 73 million liters of chemical agents on the country to strip away the vegetation that provided cover for Vietcong troops in “enemy territory.”
Using a variety of defoliants, the U.S. military also intentionally targeted cultivated land, destroying crops and disrupting rice production and distribution by the largely communist National Liberation Front, a party devoted to reunification of North and South Vietnam.
Some 45 million liters of the poisoned spray was Agent Orange, which contains the toxic compound dioxin. It has unleashed in Vietnam a slow-onset disaster whose devastating economic, health and ecological impacts that are still being felt today.
This is one of the greatest legacies of the country’s 20-year war, but is yet to be honestly confronted. Even Ken Burns and Lynn Novick seem to gloss over this contentious issue, both in their supposedly exhaustive “Vietnam War” documentary series and in subsequent interviews about the horrors of Vietnam.

Researchers to Examine Link Between Battlefield Chemical Exposure and Prostate Cancer

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine will study the link between exposure to battlefield chemicals and prostate cancer (PC) in U.S. veterans with a $1 million Challenge Award from the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
The goal is to better understand specific mutations or changes in expression that might have occurred as a result of exposure to toxic materials on the battlefield.
Researchers will study patients at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center (MEDVAMC) and Harris Health’s Ben Taub Hospital, two Houston-based healthcare facilities serving a large number of veterans with PC.
Jeffrey Jones, MD, chief of urology at MEDVAMC and the study’s lead investigator, will lead a team that selects patients for the project, collects blood and tissue samples from veterans with PC, and conducts translational and clinical studies. The team hopes to develop new biotechnologies for diagnosing and treating PC patients. It also will investigate the genomics, metabolomics, and epigenomics of unique tumor specimens from these patients.

Thursday, November 30, 2017


We update our meetings regularly on the Town Hall Meeting Calendar:

February 24, 2018
Mitchell, South Dakota
Contact: Terry Mayer
Maynard Kaderlik
April 7, 2018
Marshalltown, Iowa
Contact John Kost
April 21, 2018
Sanborn, New York
Contact:   Gordon L. Bellinger