I've been in the VA healthcare system for the last several days, and hope to go home tomorrow...great care from kind, compassionate professionals. As usual. Even tried to do a little nurse and flight surgeon recruiting, plus I had lots of time in bed to think over last week's big teleconference with VHA. It gave me time to look over various Internet articles about dioxin and some of the finer details of Agent Orange contamination. There is so much to learn.
We received official and abundant VA assurances last week that our aircrews have not been exposed to dioxin. But we asked..."Hey, wait...look at all these Air Force toxicology tests. They show heavy contamination, extremely dangerous contamination. What's up?"
The VA leaders' response was that aircrews couldn't have been exposed via skin (dermal) contact with airplane surfaces because skin is a good barrier to dioxin contamination. VA explained that we couldn't have inhaled (the second path for exposure) any dioxin because there wasn't as much dust as was the case with the workers grinding interior surfaces during Patches decontamination after that alarming 1994 report by Dr. Ron Porter and Lieutenant Colonel (now retired) Wade Weisman, who declared Patches "heavily contaminated."
As for inhalation, VA doesn't want us to worry about that pathway either. One might agree that inhalation of dioxin can be less of a problem indoors than out because most indoor dirt and dust are brought in from outside. Except with our airplane, the dioxin is already inside! The dioxin mostly remained inside, reversing the typical dioxin exposure situation. Thus we have whatever the background concentration is added to the aircraft-specific concentration! Perhaps our VA friends haven't been in a trash-hauler recently to watch crews work, move cargo, configure, do all those dust and particulate producing chores. Chores which for ten years ground our airplane's dioxin from contaminated surfaces and straight into our lungs.
As as for the third path for exposure, ingestion, VA states there probably wasn't too much dioxin dust which settled on our food, coffee and water, even though we virtually lived in the Provider for a decade. And that a lotta inflight meals, cups of coffee, gallons of water. But still, VA says there wasn't any. No studies, no research, no science to say so, but that's their view and they're stickin' to it!
So why is it that the EPA doesn't view a citizen's dioxin exposure as casually as does the VA looking at veterans? Why is the VA so confident in telling us veterans, their target population, that they have a preponderance of evidence (none of it published, none of it peer-reviewed, perhaps none of it even done?) against us having been exposed even though we'd been in close contact with our dioxin-comtaminated airplanes? Why do they offer Monsanto-Dow sponsored articles to pacify us?
Maybe Air Force dioxin is a special, different, kinder type of dioxin, one less worrisome to the VA than the dangerous kind of dioxin the EPA worries about. Ya think? Get real!
The worries EPA has about dioxin are described in their 2003 publication Estimating Exposures and Risks, Section 2. EPA worries so much about dioxin because, especially for the dermal pathway, the absorption of dioxin through the skin has been estimated to range from 0.5 to 3.0% (EPA, 1992a), with assessments typically (conservatively) assuming 3.0%. That's a lot when you see the concentrations reported by Porter-Weisman aboard Patches.
The plain truth here is exactly what Vietnam and Blue Water Navy veterans have learned before us: VA refuses to recognize any and all dioxin contamination until Congress directs otherwise. If you don't have the data to show contamination, they'll say there is no dioxin there. If you do happen to have contamination data, VA then pretends there is no chance of exposure. It is not science when the researcher proceeds with a conclusion already determined...and boy, the VA has its conclusion already on its rubber stamp "NO DIOXIN EXPOSURE HERE."
In our case, we showed VA adequate testing data to establish our exposure aboard dioxin-contaminated airplanes. We supported our approach with concurring opinions from respected professionals. We showed our Agent Orange presumptive illnesses.
But they have blinders on. "NO DIOXIN EXPOSURE HERE."