08 October 2012

Ah, the smell! Malathion or Dioxin? Does it even matter?

One of the first lessons our C-123 veterans learned about Agent Orange contamination in the airplanes, especially in Patches, was that dioxin is odorless. What we were smelling wasn't dioxin but instead, malathion residue from Patches' insecticide spray missions over Vietnam.

Thus, many "experts" dismissed our dioxin exposure claims when we brought up the foul smell by pointing out this error. However...the smell indeed does indicate the persistence of the Agent Orange contamination.

Why, or how? We veterans don't dispute the lesson learned regarding where the terrible smells came from...it was very probably the malathion. We contend, however, that if the malathion persisted to the point of sickening the crew as it did so often, and if it forced us to fly with the heat off or even the cockpit windows open, or even avoid scheduling the aircraft altogether, that dioxin had to be present in significant quantities.

Our maintenance folks like Charlie Fusco remind us of countless efforts at cleaning Patches. Of scraping that black or dark brown "goop" with putty knives and screwdrivers to get rid of it. Of tech bulletins from Warner-Robins detailing cleaning instructions with specific detergents and even the recommendation in 1979 by Air Force toxicologists that it would probably be necessary to remove the wings and remove the cargo deck to get out enough of the "goop" to improve the situation.

We are also reminded that, in Vietnam, the malathion missions by Patches were after her years of spraying Agent Orange.

It is clear that Agent Orange "goop" got mixed in with malathion "goop". The Air Force tests on Patches in 1979 and 1994 confirmed, in the words of the toxicologists, that the airplane remained "heavily contaminated" with dioxin despite all efforts over the ten years we flew her, and despite all the efforts of the Ranch Hand crews to keep her clean, and despite at least one depot-level maintenance and cleaning cycle that we know of...there were perhaps more. It even took three decontamination efforts on Patches at Wright-Patterson before the airplane was reasonably safe to enter.

How can any VA administrator or physician fail to see we were exposed?

Eventually one of our veteran's claims will reach the Board of Veterans Appeals or the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims! There, the justice of our exposure claim will be clear. The Air Force tests over several decades. The Air Force efforts by AFMC JAG to restrict the contamination information to "official channels only." The Air Force decision to quarantine the contaminated airplanes at the Davis-Monthan Bone Yard. The Air Force decision, approved by the Air Staff, to destroy the remaining airplanes because of the lingering contamination and the threat of an EPA $3.4 billion fine. The multitude of independent scientific opinions confirming our exposure. The finding by the CDC/ATSDR that aircrews were exposed to 200x the Army's TG312 cancer screening threshold. The finding by Dr. Jeanne Stellman that our aircrews were exposed to as much or more dioxin than ground troops during Vietnam. It will be clear that our aircrews have met the VA's "as likely to as not" exposure requirement with more evidence than any veterans population except the guys in Ranch Hand.

It will be quite revealing - and frightening - when one of our veteran's claims before the court is from a female crewmember. Remember that dioxin accumulates in body fat, and has a half-life of about seven to ten years. Remember, dear VA, that once a woman is exposed to dioxin as in our airplanes, the dioxin is concentrated and can be passed on via lactation after childbirth. Remember that numerous scientific studies establish the dermal route of dioxin exposure, despite the VA pretense of the human skin being a 'near-perfect barrier." Washington State University's recent study revealed:
Dioxin builds up in the body and has up to a decade-long half-life in humans, so scientists say a woman who becomes pregnant even 20 years after exposure is at risk of transmitting the consequences of her exposure to later generations.
So we must ask, "why can't the VA permit the individual veteran's claim to be accepted without challenge to the issue of exposure?"

1 comment:

  1. If the VA or DOD accepts claims from Air Force Personnel for aftereffects of Agent Orange exposure it will have to expand to the areas where the agent was stored loaded and used around Airbases and military installations all over the South Pacific. The DOD would have to admit to treaty violations regarding, use, storage, and contamination of areas well beyond Vietnam, like Thailand, The Philippines, Guam, Okinawa, Taiwan, and Japan. We are cowards who fear the truth of our involvement in poisoning so large a swath of the Planet. Most of us Vietnam era Veterans affected in the outlying bases in South East Asia are dying out and will soon be a fading memory too. The VA and DOD will continue to deny, deny, until we all die ! Problem solved ?


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