12 September 2012

New Agent Orange Exposure Studies Requested

In addition to the request filed with the US Army's Directorate for Risk Assessment , similar applications have been filed for investigations by the National Industrial Occupational Health Administration (part of the CDC) and an independent scientific agency, the Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA). TERA has been asked to evaluate the USAF report on C-123 contamination and its relevance to aircrew exposure to Agent Orange. Our veterans can only hope that TERA accepts this challenging responsibility!

The Army Directorate for Risk Assessment earlier published the famous TG312, the technical guide to assessment of worker contaminants exposure. TG312 has been cited by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in their letter confirming the likely exposure of aircrews and maintenance personnel assigned to the C-123 to dioxin remaining from the aircraft's Vietnam War missions. Further, TG312 was cited by each of the university-based experts who weighed in to support the veterans' claims of having been exposed to the deadly herbicide. Such experts have further claimed that C-123 aircrews (1970 to 1980) were even more severely exposed than nearly all Vietnam War veterans!

Davis-Monthan DAF Employees in Required C-123 HAZMAT Protection
The VA and USAF have disagreed. Faced with the alternative of admitting that they'd sold these dioxin-contaminated aircraft to Walt Disney for movies, and to Thailand and South Vietnam for their militaries, the USAF took a middle-of-the-road approach in their evaluation of the C-123 risks, opining that they could not confirm or deny exposure, but then somehow concluded that aircrew exposure was "unlikely." Of course, having destroyed all the contaminated aircraft in 2010, they've made their limpid position difficult to challenge. All the aircraft were very quietly destroyed on order of the Air Force Material Command and approved by the Air Staff...that is, all were destroyed except for the souvenirs kept by the inspectors themselves (who certified the complete destruction of the airplanes...so destruction complete except for their private, personal and improperly kept souvenirs?)

The VA, faced with the costs of providing medical care for the exposed veterans, quickly prepared their opinion denying veterans' exposure, and did so in the face of toxicology tests completed by the Air Force's Armstrong Labs in which the airplanes were tested as "heavily contaminated" and about which the USAF scientists testified were "a danger to public health." The VA even challenged the industry-standard method by which the Air Force tests were conducted, and concluded the aircraft were not contaminated "enough" to affect veterans' health. This position staggered professional toxicologists - was the VA suggesting a threshold of dioxin exposure, or describing a situation where workers could perform their duties in a dioxin-contaminated aircraft and somehow not be exposed?? Is VA unaware of decisions that NO LEVEL OF DIOXIN is considered "safe" - decisions reached by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) as well as the US Environmental Protection Agency?

Any such "ignorance" seems highly unlikely since these agencies' documents were cited by both the AF and the VA! Any attempt to now claim that the C-123 didn't have enough dioxin to potentially cause harm to aircrews is clearly an equivocation - an attempt to worm their way out of having to care for our veterans' Agent Orange-caused illnesses!

Why can't we get Senator Gillibrand to stand up for us as has Senator Burr?

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