01 November 2011

Challenge to VA Position on C-123 Dioxin Contamination

Dr. Fred Berman, Director of the Toxicology Information Center at Oregon Health Sciences University has been carefully looking into the issue of aircrew dioxin exposure aboard the C-123 during the post-Vietnam War years of 1972-1982. After listening to the VA's response to our concerns and the VA position that crews somehow weren't exposed, he and his associates conducted an extensive literature search (described below) and were unable to find any research supporting the VA hypothesis. Indeed, they found exactly the opposite, citing a 2004 study entitled "Surface dust criteria for dioxin and dioxin-like compounds for re-entry to buildings." Basically, this study showed that the C-123 was about 500% MORE contaminated with dioxin than would be permitted in buildings after cleanup following 9/11.

The VA recently "explained" that while the aircraft certainly tested positive as "heavily contaminated" with dioxin, aircrews were miraculously unexposed. Part of their position was that chemical swipes were used to test surfaces...yet that is the standard method of testing! The VA experts actually offered the standard method of testing for dioxin contamination, mentioned repeatedly in their own papers we discussed, as their "proof" to conclude our crews couldn't have been exposed. That's twisting science to win your argument...and that's not science! That's like saying because 105mm shells kill on impact, bullets won't!

They suggest that because solvents were used, solvents are the only way for dioxin exposure to occur. Don't know if they've ever looked at the sweat and oil on a loadmaster's hands, at the normal body oils and soil accumulated after long days of loading, flying, unloading and repairing a filthy C-123 Provider! Plenty of skin solvents to allow dioxin transfer! Dioxin transferred!

Another part of the VA maneuver against us was their claim that dust-borne dioxin wasn't inhaled...they say there was no dust. Guess they've never been aboard a rapid cargo or airevac configuration, or an airdrop. Dust and dirt everywhere. Repairs, setting up and tearing down seats, laying and removing the cargo rollers...dust everywhere! Dioxin everywhere! Dioxin inhaled!

The VA has a duty to assist veterans in submitting disability claims, rather than construct arguments to insure they don't qualify. There must be a preponderance of evidence against a veteran's claim, and the benefit of the doubt must rest with the veteran. Thus far, despite the earnest participation of VA experts in the recent teleconference, there has been no assistance. There is no preponderance of evidence against our claim of exposure--there is in fact a preponderance of evidence in support of our claim!

Dr. Berman's Letter to Senator Burr's Staff:
Re: the question of C-123 aircrew dioxin exposure, I have attached a pdf file containing a recent paper on reentry criteria for dioxin-contaminated buildings, which appears to have been written in response to the World Trade Center collapse and resultant environmental contamination. Herein they calculated dioxin re-entry criteria for various exposure scenarios, including adult occupational. For the latter scenario, the re-entry value is approximately 85 nanograms per square meter surface area (C-123 aircrews were exposed to surface concentrations averaging 617 nanograms per square meter). 
In my literature search, I have yet to find the term “dry form” to describe dioxins and other chlorinated organic compounds. Nor have I found information to indicates that dioxins in such a dry form on hard surfaces would be any less able to transfer to other surfaces, such as skin, upon direct contact. I would like to have this clarified, if possible, so that I can understand the rationale for determining that C-123 aircrews were not likely to have experienced significant exposure to dioxins.  
Fred Berman DVM, PhD Director, Toxicology Information Center Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology Oregon Health and Science University 3181 S.W. Sam Jackson Park Rd., L606 Portland, OR 97239-3086 Ph: 503-494-xxxx

More about the Aircrew-VA-Senate teleconference:

The VA kindly distributed six documents the day before the teleconference for us to review...documents which were thought to argue against aircrew dioxin exposure. I questioned the author of two of their (three decades old!) documents, Dr. Michael Newton at Oregon State, and he insisted that no conclusions about our aircrew exposure could be made from his research, and therefore two of the VA papers were made useless. (BTW, I've enjoyed our pleasant conversations with this former Infantry officer, following a somewhat heated initial meeting.)

I also contacted the author of the most recent 75th Air Base Wing (Hill AFB) study of C-123 dioxin contamination---same situation, insisting no conclusion about aircrew contamination could be drawn from his research. In that paper, I noted on the first page a statement that dioxin levels "would permit short-term worker exposure" and this certainly could be taken to suggest that our own long-term exposure was hazardous!

I struggled through the other papers...toxicology is obviously not my field, and only at the very end of one paper reexamining the Ranch Hand aircrews' dioxin exposure noted that it was funded by Monsanto and Dow, the Agent Orange manufacturers!! I learned this paper is typically discounted by Agent Orange experts everywhere.


The benefit of the doubt is due us. We have clearly established the dioxin contamination of the aircraft. The exposure of crews over the decade we flew the Provider allowed for dioxin exposure via skin transfer as well as inhalation. The preponderance of evidence is for us, rather than against us. Our exposure, to quote the Toxicology Department of Oregon Health Sciences University, is "most likely.

For the VA to rule otherwise forces a conclusion that they are simply dedicated to preventing valid and persuasive Agent Orange claims rather than justly evaluating them.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Got something to share? Nothing commercial or off-topic, please.