AGENT ORANGE 4
By Todd Zwillich
WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) - A gaffe by Australian researchers has forced the US Department of Veterans Affairs (news - web sites) (VA) to temporarily cancel plans to compensate Vietnam veterans for cancers linked to the infamous herbicide Agent Orange.
A faulty survey questionnaire distributed to 50,000 ex-soldiers in Australia has called into question a major study that led experts last spring to link Agent Orange exposure to rare but highly fatal acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) in children of vets.
Now the agency has withdrawn its request that Congress allow federal payments for the cancers and has ordered a new review of the evidence linking the defoliant to the illness.
``We upset the apple cart a bit,'' Dr. Paul Jelfs, a researcher with the Australian Institute of Health, told Reuters Health. Jelfs and his colleague, Dr. Keith Horsley, had to travel from Canberra, Australia to Washington, DC to present their corrected data to an Institute of Medicine (news - web sites) panel Thursday.
Those data now show that the association between Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam vets and AML in their offspring is not as strong as once thought.
The Australians' original study concluded that AML was three to six times more common in vets' children than in the children of men who did not serve during Vietnam. But that was before researchers discovered in June that the questionnaires they had distributed to the families of the 50,000 vets in the study were not uniform.
One version sent to ex-vets asked them to identify all cases of AML in their children, whether those children were living or not. Researchers came up with 12 verified cases.
But another sent to a comparison group of non-Vietnam vets asked them only to identify living children with the disease. Originally that turned up only three cases, making a fourfold difference between the groups.
Once the study was redone with corrected questionnaires, the number of AML cases in the comparison group rose to nine. The result is that AML is still more common in children of Vietnam vets but that the results no longer reach the threshold of statistical significance.
``It put those findings into question,'' Dr. Mark Brown, the VA's director of environmental agents, said in an interview. VA's payment decision is now ``on hold,'' he said.
AML affects about 1 in 100,000 US children, and accounts for about 8% of all childhood cancers. The disease strikes 600 to 700 children per year and is about 60% fatal. Agent Orange has already been linked to birth defects like spina bifida in veterans' children and has also been associated with increased rates of diabetes in veterans themselves.
Jelfs and Horsley told Reuters Health that they were embarrassed by the goof, and pointed out that their agencies in Australia issued retraction of the study and an apology as soon as the mistake was discovered.
The Institute of Medicine is working on a new report and is expected to issue its findings early in 2002.
But even with the new Australian study, there could be one more twist. Researchers may have a hard time using a survey to establish a definitive link between Agent Orange exposure in Australian vets and AML in their biological children.
That, according to Jelfs, is because Australian men who believe they are their children's biological fathers are only right 95% of the time.
|US Newswire >|
"We are outraged -- but not surprised -- that American military personnel were used as de facto guinea pigs in these experiments," said Corey. "Our understanding is that the Pentagon's Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, Medical Readiness, and Military Deployments (OSAGWI/MR/MD) has the names of those exposed but has not released that information to the Veterans Administration. We call upon the Pentagon to release any and all records associated with these experiments and to aggressively seek out those veterans who were exposed to determine their health status."
The tests -- code-named Shady Grove -- occurred between January and April 1965 and involved aerial spraying of Navy ships and Marine Corps personnel.
According to an article in the October 22, 2001, edition of the Army Times, deck logs from Navy ships showed no evidence of personnel reporting illnesses associated with Q fever, the biological agent used in the tests. However, previous government uses of pesticides, chemical agents, and other toxins have often been poorly documented or classified for years, raising the prospect that Shady Grove test subjects may have developed undocumented or undiagnosed medical problems as a result of the exposure.
Corey noted that the Pentagon had admitted to VVA that as many as one hundred such experiments were conducted. "During this time of increased concern over the potential health risks of exposure to biological warfare agents, we believe the federal government has a special responsibility to deal openly and honestly with this issue. We will be raising this matter with the relevant congressional committees," Corey said.
VVA's point of contact for additional information is Mokie Porter at 301-585-4000, ext. 146. Visit VVA's Web site at http://www.vva.org.
------ Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families. VVA's founding principle is "Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another."
This is my draft report concerning the scientific conference we attended
last week in Hanio, Vietnam.
A more detailed report, with attachments will
be presented at the committee meeting on 22 March; and,
to the BOD on 23 March 2002. Good trip, no hassles, although I came home
with a helluva head cold.
"Success is a journey, not a destination."
US-Vietnam Scientific Conference on Human Health and Environmental Effects
of Agent Orange/Dioxins; 3 - 6 March 2002
Daewoo Hotel; Hanoi, Vietnam
By Paul Sutton, Chair, VVA Agent Orange/Dioxin Committee
Travel Dates: 28 February - 8 March 2002:
At the invitation and expense of the US National Institute of Environmental
Health Sciences (NIEHS), I attended and served as a presenter at this
conference, together with two other VVA members and VVA staff.
On Thursday, 28 February, I flew from Atlantic City International Airport to
Chicago via Philadelphia, PA.
I then flew from Chicago (over the North Pole) to Hong Kong, China, arriving
there in the early evening of Friday, 1 March 2002, and stayed overnight in
On Saturday, 2 March; I flew from Hong Kong to Hanoi, Vietnam, after having
met up with Tom Corey, Janet Alheit, Dr. Linda Schwartz, Dr, George Knafl,
Dr. Wayne Dwernychuk and Leslie Dwernychuk at the Hong Kong airport. We
arrived at Noi Bai International Airport, Hanoi, at 10:00 a.m. After
clearing customs, retrieving baggage and hiring a van, we arrived at the
Daewoo Hotel at Noon. After checking in, we all met with Ms. Sandy Lange and
Dr. Portier concerning conference arrangements.
On Sunday, 3 March; we attended Opening Sessions and heard several guest
speakers, among them US Ambassador Raymond Burkhardt, followed by several
comments and questions from the audience. Later that evening, we
participated in the "Formal Dinner" at poolside. The audience numbered over
400, with 280 of them Vietnamese scientists, government employees and
representatives from several non-governmental organizations (NGO). At
dinner, we sat with two Vietnamese attendees who were brothers from Ho Chi
Minh City (Saigon) and who both work for the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry.
(Personal observation: I thought that Dr. Portier's presentation on Sunday
was condescending (towards the Vietnamese scientific delegates) and that his
follow-up comments and questions during the Q&A were intended to "embarrass"
the Vietnamese scientists.) Previous to the conference, during meetings in
the US attended by VVA representatives, he made it very clear on a number of
occasions, that he had little regard for the work done by the Vietnamese
scientific community, saying that its methods are "not similar" to western
scientific practices and that very little of it had been peer-reviewed
and/or published in scientific publications. It should be noted that the
Vietnamese have little in the way of equipment and that it has been
historically been difficult for them to get their science done or accepted
by the western scientific world because of suspicions on both sides.
On Monday morning, both Tom Corey and I were interviewed by RUETERS NEWS TV,
following which we all attended Conference sessions. At 11:00 a. m., I
presented my Paper, which was followed by a Q&A session. Dr. Schwartz also
gave her presentation which followed mine about twenty minutes later and
which was also well received. During lunch, our group met with the five
person Laotian Delegation. The afternoon was taken up with more Conference
Sessions until approximately 5:30 p. m.
Personal Observation: I was struck by the reaction of several of the
scientists to my presentation and the questions they generated. Three of the
scientists were also veterans (NVA) and one had served as a chemical warfare
officer during the war. The questions centered on the CDC studies (which I
said were regarded with great suspicion and had been largely discounted by
American veterans) and the diseases for which American veterans were
currently receiving compensation. I also told them about the Spina Bifida
compensation paid to approximately 2,300 of our children.
Later in the day, Dr. Larry Needham of CDC, during his presentation, made
the statement that, ".. CDC found no reason to believe that any US troops,
other that US Air Force Ranch veterans, experienced exposure to Agent Orange
and that there was no reason to suspect exposure to ground troops". When
challenged on this statement (also contained in one of his conference
slides), he said that he did not intend to convey that impression.
On Tuesday, we all attended the day long Conference
Sessions. One of the presentations was by Dr. Han Kang of the USDVA who
presented data from several VA studies conducted in the 1980's and early
1990's that have been widely disparaged by VVA and others. His presentation
was immediately attacked by the Vietnamese scientific community utilizing
slides from the 1996 release by NAS/IOM in 1996, recommending to VA that
most of the service-connected disabilities now listed in US Code, Title 38.
Personal Observation: during this conference, both DVA and CDC
representatives repeatedly presented research results from work by their
respective agencies that is, in some cases, between 15 and 20 years old.
Because of study design and agency approach in publishing data from research
that was intended to draw a negative conclusion from the design phase
through and including publication; VVA and many in the US scientific
community have criticized the research done by these two agencies over the
past 20 years. Despite these negative reviews of DVA and CDC work; Dr.
Portier has gone out of his way to disparage the work of the Vietnamese
scientific community, claiming that it has not been peer-reviewed (although
a good deal of the Vietnamese scientific work I saw over the past four days
had all the "trappings" of published work) and has characterized it as work
done in a "biased" way - complaints VVA and others have leveled at the DVA
and CDC work repeatedly.
At 4:15 p.m., until about 5:05 p. m., we (Tom Corey, Janet Alheit, Linda
Schwartz and I) met with US Ambassador Raymond Burkhardt, and two of his
staff (Gary Sigmon and Mike Linnan), concerning the Veterans' Initiative,
Agent Orange research and humanitarian aid to the Vietnamese.
>From 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. that evening, we attended a dinner given by the
Vietnamese delegation at the HORIZON HOTEL, Hanoi. Our hosts had reportedly
been upset with the quality of the service and food at the Sunday evening
dinner given at the DAEWOO HOTEL, so this was an attempt on their part to
Later that evening, Tom Corey, Rick Weidman, Mokie Porter and I met to
address our concerns about and to devise a response to an erroneous RUETERS
news article released to the wire services earlier that afternoon, resulting
in the decision to hold a press conference at 10:00 a. m., on Wednesday
morning, the 6th.
On Wednesday morning, Tom Corey met with five members of the press
individually to correct the misunderstandings established by the erroneous
RUETERS news article published in that morning's VIETNAM NEWS. Handling the
press in this manner was a compromise worked out between Tom and the
Vietnamese Organizing Committee (VOC) once the VOC learned of the planned
press conference, to which they objected. (The VOC objections were because
1). - we (VVA) did not gain VOC permission to hold the press conference;
and, 2). - they (the VOC) had scheduled their own press conference for later
that day and were concerned that the VVA press conference might take the
focus away from the conference and may diminish press attendance from their
After the meetings with the press, we all attended the final Conference
Sessions and Closing Ceremony. During one of the remaining sessions,
Vietnamese scientists utilized the 2000 NAS/IOM reports to point out the
diseases and disabilities for which US veterans currently receive
service-connected compensation based upon the NAS/IOM recommendations to DVA
in 1993, 1996, 1998, and 2000; and, to illustrate that these same illnesses
and disabilities are reportedly experienced by Vietnamese citizens in the
At the Wednesday afternoon VOC press conference, Dr. Portier did publicly
acknowledge VVA's participation in and work towards ensuring that this
scientific conference was made possible because of VVA's advocacy with the
Congress to "make it happen".
On Thursday, as we were all preparing to leave Hanoi for the US, "Round
Table" workshop discussions were taking place between the Vietnamese and
American scientists to suggest research in Vietnam that would strengthen the
understanding of health and environmental effects of Agent Orange and
dioxin. Since my plane did not leave until 3:00 p.m., I sat in on some of
the sessions. Broken down into two tracks (health effects research and
environmental effects research), they considered ideas that were presented
prior to the beginning of the workshops, discussion of additional research
areas, establishment of a draft report laid out in "bullets" fashion,
prioritization of research goals and were to compile a completed report for
the "government-to-government" meetings that were scheduled to formalize the
process, set for Saturday, 9 March 2002.
VVA'S COMMENTS ABOUT AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE FUTURE OF THIS RESEARCH:
 The most important thing about this conference is that it has taken
place. This was a watershed event. VVA is grateful to the governments of
Vietnam, the United States and the many scientists who attended and took
part in the discussions.
 From this point forward, the pace of planning for and the execution
of the research must accelerate.
 FACT: that dioxins, salt of arsenic, and the numerous other toxins
in Agent Orange, and the other herbicides (Agent Blue, Agent Purple, Agent
Pink, Agent White, etc.) used extensively in southern Vietnam during the war
are irrefutably harmful to human health is abundantly clear based on the
scientific presentations in Hanoi. The same is true for PCB's.
 We need to move quickly to assess the full extent and breadth of
these human health circumstances, as well as assessing the "hot spots"
existent in Vietnam today.
 There is a pressing need to initiate and carry-through with
research to determine the remediation process necessary to address the
health care problems of those with diseases and disabilities associated with
exposure to toxic chemicals. Time is of the essence - we do not have decades
to address the pressing problems of today.
 There is a real need for early and fast-paced studies to determine
what environmental testing/remediation methods may be the most affordable
and yet still succeed, especially in rural areas of southern Vietnam.
 It is of great concern that numerous presenters in Hanoi appeared
to minimize the association between exposure and illnesses.
 There is a pressing need for Requests for Applications
(investigator-initiated studies; research directed from "the bottom up")
funded by NIEHS vs. Requests for Proposals (NIEHS-directed; research
directed from "the top down". This approach is necessary in order to show
respect for all the parties involved in this process. The Request for
Applications process would show respect for approaches that are
scientifically valid to both American as well as Vietnamese scientists. In
the Request for Proposals scenario, we foresee one American agency setting
the shape and substance of all research issues/studies.
 Other actions/positions regarding resources for continued
remediation are a matter for discussion/resolution between the governments
of the US and Vietnam and not a matter in which VVA can or should be
involved. As a result, VVA takes no position on this complex issue.
 The conference highlighted US veterans and their families.
 Historically, the weaknesses inherent in US government-sponsored
studies are that they usually don't find what you don't really look for,
perhaps deliberately. Hundreds of dioxin research grants have been awarded
over the past ten years, not one of those grants has ever been directed at
the health issues of veterans and/or their families. There have been tens of
thousands of research grants from the National Institutes of Health; but,
virtually none of them have specifically targeted veterans and/or their
families as research subjects.
 This conference points up the real, pressing and immediate need for
a National Institute for Veterans Health (NIVH).
The AO maps (Herb Tape info) are at:
http://dns.advnet.net/gdmoore/ao_amts2.htm (2 column for wide
http://dns.advnet.net/gdmoore/ao_amts1.htm (1 column for smaller
There is an excel spreadsheet available for download at both sites.
Vets Say Vietnam Dioxin Victims Should Be Helped
(EXCERPT) Mon Mar 4, 6:33 AM ET, by David Brunnstrom
HANOI (Reuters) - The U.S. government and chemical firms that sold it
Agent Orange had a moral duty to compensate Vietnamese who have
suffered from exposure to the toxic defoliant in the Vietnam War, U.S.
veterans said on Monday.
Members of the Vietnam Veterans of America, the driving force behind a
scientific conference on Agent Orange and dioxin that opened in Hanoi
on Sunday, said they hoped it would bring a better deal for both their
members and the Vietnamese.
The conference has brought together Vietnamese and U.S. government
scientists and dioxin experts worldwide to assess current knowledge
about the effects of Agent Orange and map out future research paths.
Paul Sutton, head of the VVA's Agent Orange/Dioxin committee, whose
three children were born with birth defects he believes were caused by
his exposure to the toxic chemical said the U.S. government and the
makers of the defoliant -- Dow Chemical Co and Monsanto Co -- shared a
responsibility to compensate victims.
"This is a very thorny issue that has to be worked out," he said. "We,
in our organization, certainly think that there should be a fair and
equitable compensation or an ability to solve the health problems in
this population in this country."
U.S. forces dumped millions of gallons of defoliants on Vietnam from
1962 until 1971 when spraying was halted after it was discovered they
contained the most dangerous form of highly toxic dioxin, TCDD, and
caused cancer in rats.
The veterans and Vietnam blame Agent Orange for numerous illnesses
including: physical and mental birth defects, cancers, diabetes and
Vietnam estimates more than a million of its people were exposed to
the spraying, which it blames for tens of thousands of birth defects.
Washington argues the scientific evidence is inconclusive and more
research is needed.
"This has been their line all along," said Sutton. "They are worried
it might end up costing them millions and millions of dollars to do
something they could have solved 40 years ago."
The U.S. embassy made clear on Sunday Washington was not going to
entertain Vietnamese compensation claims.
"U.S. Vietnam-relations were normalized in 1995 after Vietnam dropped
claims war reparations/compensation," it said. "At the time of
normalization, neither compensation nor reparations were granted or
contemplated for the future."
Sutton and VVA president Thomas Corey, said it was difficult to say
how much compensation might be in order, but described a $184 million
settlement reached by the chemical firms with U.S. veterans in 1984 as
More than 100,000 U.S. veterans have filed claims for help with
illnesses related to Agent Orange, but only 7,500 are currently
does anyone know where I can find the data on Thailand and Korea
for agent orange and others?
you going to have to do a lot of searching ! but
you can try here http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/vietnamarchive/
or here http://www.nvoalv.org/agentorange.html
or http://www.asiasource.org/news/at_mp_02.cfm?newsid=36792 or
This story was also on the AP wire & should be in most newspapers today 2
On April 1, 2002, in an important Agent Orange case the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected the VA's appeal of the U.S. District
Court's December 1999 ruling in the Nehmer case. In that case, the District
Court held that all Vietnam veterans prostate cancer claimants or their
survivors are entitled to retroactive benefits to the date of the first
filing of their claim for service connection or survivor's benefits (as long
as the prostate cancer claim was not final before September 25, 1985).
The court also upheld the District Court's rejection of the VA's argument
that only two years of retroactive benefits were due to some survivors of
deceased veterans subject to the earlier Nehmer court order.
NVLSP believes that this ruling should also apply to similar VA claimants
with claims based on diabetes in a Vietnam veteran.
The decision follows. It is unknown whether the VA will appeal this
decision; however, NVLSP feels the VA's chances of success if there is an
appeal are unlikely.
For more details on this litigation see the remainder of the information
below; e-mail: NVLSP; or call (202) 265-8305 x 119.
To read the opinion from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth
Circuit, click here Nehmer opinion