|USAFSAM C-123 Report|
Basically the report failed to confirm whether the C-123 contamination left veterans exposed. For some reason and without further foundation, the report then went on to state veterans were very unlikely to have been exposed.
Veterans who've been insisting we were exposed aboard the C-123 were quick to note that the report tried to focus on the 1994 Porter/Weisman toxicological survey of Tail #362 (Patches) at the Air Force Museum which the veterans had held up as proof of our exposure. That survey seemed quite clear - "heavily contaminated on all surfaces." The survey also directed that all personnel wear HAZMAT protection, so severe was the threat of dioxin exposure. These points and others seemed, to the veterans, adequate proof that Patches and the other C-123s were contaminated. These points were adequate proof that, since we flew in NOMEX flight suits and not HAZMAT protection from the dioxin, we were in fact exposed.
Not so, said the report. In a twisted effort to prevent allowing the veterans to claim exposure, the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine insisted that Weisman/Porter applied to museum restoration workers only. USAFSAM insisted that the tasks of museum restoration workers could lead to dioxin exposure but somehow - the work of aerial port, maintenance and aircrew wouldn't.
Museum of the United States Air Force and restoration workers at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville Oregon, home of the famous Spruce Goose and dozens of other aircraft.
But the tasks are virtually identical! Grinding, loading, unloading, painting, welding, scraping, corrosion control. assembly, disassembly, and so forth. The veterans did many more activities, all of which further exposed them to the C-123 dioxin residue. In fact, the Porter/Weisman report clearly proves that veterans were exposed! And remember - veterans were exposed much longer than restoration workers who finished their tasks quickly, and veterans were exposed to dioxin which was far "fresher" during our decade of flight than in 1994 when Porter/Weisman was completed. Several senior NCOs and officers provided sworn statements that effect.
The questions must arise - why was the USAFSAM report seemingly so thorough, yet so flawed?
1. The first obvious answer is that the Air Force, having discovered a situation in 1994 concerning exposure of veterans 1972-1982, had failed to inform the veterans we'd been exposed. Instead, in 1996 and just two years after the Museum survey, the Air Force Office of Environmental Law directed all information about C-123 Agent Orange contamination be kept "in official channels only,
2. The second answer is that some C-123s had already been sold to Walt Disney Films, and the Air Force would have been embarrassed with that becoming widely known.
3. The third answer is that many contaminated C-123s had been sold by the Air Force Security Assistance Center to Thailand and South Korea, thus potential embarrassment to the USAF and the State Department. Contemporary memos stressed the political implications and the need to minimize publicity about the contamination.
4. The USAF and Office of Secretary of Defense were sensitive to the public concern raised by an article by Prof Ben Quick which addressed the C-123 contamination. The USAF and Office of Secretary of Defense corresponded frequently about the need to destroy the stored C-123s and do do so quietly, with carefully worded press releases in the event the destruction became known, because C-123 veterans might learn about their exposure and seek VA benefits. It is highly inappropriate for the government to take any such action which would in any way keep veterans from seeking VA service-connected medical care. The words "cover up" come to mind but clumsy would be a better description of the secret C-123 destruction issue.
5. Learning of the C-123 dioxin contamination, the USAF acted to cancel private sales but already planes had been sold. Dr. Ron Porter, a USAF toxicology expert had to testify in a federal court to confirm the "hazardous" surfaces and the need for personnel to wear HAZMAT protection in the USAF Museum. Dr. Ron Porter testified under oath confirming the dioxin contamination of the C-123 was, as per his Porter/Weisman survey, hazardous to the public. He made no reference as to his survey applying only to USAF museum staff.
6. The USAFSAM C-123 report report failed to reference many current documents and opinions, such as from Dr. Jeanie Stellman, Dr. Ron Porter, Dr. Joe Goeppner and others. The USAFSAM report cited, in several cases, research reports over thirty years old.
7. In an incredulous statement, USAFSAM reported that, even if the C-123 was contaminated, veterans weren't likely to be exposed. That statement is doubly-flawed. In all previous situations government agencies have basically concluded that measurable contamination equals exposure via one or more of the exposure pathways (ingestion, inhalation, dermal contact). In this report, however, USAF implies a point above which exposure occurs and at that point and below, no harm results from that exposure. The statement is further flawed in concluding veterans weren't exposed, and fails to weigh properly the Army TG312 and the CDC/ATSDR findings that the aircraft contamination of dioxin exceeded both US domestic as well as international standards. The C-123 was also contaminated past the safe reentry standards set by the State of New York, relied on throughout all levels of government as a "gold standard."