21 February 2013

DOD Document Supports C-123 Dioxin Dermal Exposure Claims

Yesterday a scientist with the US Army Public Health Command forwarded to me one of their important documents titled "Health Effects of Dioxin Exposure." I found these parts especially informative, when viewed in light of the VA's insistance that there is no possibility (only from the VA perspective, not from that of other federal agencies or the scientific community!) of our dermal exposure from service aboard the contaminated C-123 transports.

The VA says we could not have been exposed to dioxin on the airplanes via dermal exposure because the skin is a near-perfect barrier. How reassuring.

The Army, Navy and Air Force, in preparing "Health Effects of Dioxin Exposure," state "Dioxins can be absorbed through food, air (inhalation), or through the skin."

The VA says we couldn't be harmed by dioxin, which, according to Compensation and Pension (C&P), "In summary, there is no conclusive evidence that TCDD exposure causes any adverse health effects. How reassuring.

The Army, Navy and Air Force, in preparing "Health Effects of Dioxin Exposure," state "...dioxins are considered to be carcinogens by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Agency." Similarly, except in the case of C-123 veterans, the VA says dioxin is a carcinogen. 

Gosh, was there something special about those Nomex flight suits? Like Superman's cape and costume, were we magically protected? Is dioxin like kryptonite?  Or does the VA ignore science, medicine, law, logic and other federal agencies in their determination to prevent C-123 veterans' valid Agent Orange exposure claims?

Amazing...forty years of "those Agent Orange airplanes" except the minute the first veteran's exposure claim reached their desks, and suddenly, by magic and not by law, science, logic or medicine, the airplanes were perfectly safe, perfectly clean. According to the VA. And only the VA.

For Service members 
Important Facts:
Dioxins are chlorine-containing chemicals that are
considered environmental pollutants.  While often associated
with burning, dioxins are produced by a wide variety of  
industrial processes.  Dioxins can be found in the air, water,
soil, and foods throughout the world.  
Incomplete combustion resulting from low burning
temperatures and reduced oxygen availability is a primary
source of dioxins.  Open-pit burning of trash, especially
plastics, can produce dioxins.  Dioxins are also found in
tobacco smoke and car exhaust.
Foods we consume are the main source of our exposure to
dioxins.  Foods high in saturated fats tend to have higher  
levels of dioxins.  Dioxins can also enter the body through
the air we breathe (for example, in smoke).
All people are exposed to small amounts of dioxins. The
health effects, if any, associated with these low levels of
exposure are not fully understood.

What are dioxins?
Dioxins are complex, toxic chemicals containing carbon,
hydrogen, oxygen, and chlorine.  They tend to stay in the
environment for long periods.  Although dioxins are released by
volcanic eruptions and forest fires, most dioxins are unwanted
by-products of human activity including industrial processes. 
These include smelting, bleaching of paper pulp, manufacturing
of herbicides/ pesticides, and exhaust from internal combustion
engines used in most vehicles.  Open burning of trash and other
materials is a primary source of dioxins throughout the world --
especially low temperature/low oxygen fires that burn materials 
(such as plastics) containing chlorine.  Incinerators usually are
better for burning waste, because they increase the temperature
and oxygen levels for more complete and efficient burning, 
 thus reducing the amount of dioxins produced.  Dioxins vary 
in their ability to cause harm to people.  While some dioxins 
are very potent, others are less so, or are not harmful at all.     

How can I be exposed to dioxins? 
Because dioxins are found widely throughout the 
environment in the air, water, and soil, nearly everyone is 
exposed to dioxins in small amounts.  People living near 
incinerators that are not operating correctly or who live or 
work close to hazardous waste sites that contain dioxins 
could have greater exposures.  Dioxins can be absorbed 
through food, air (inhalation), or through the skin.  
Most of the dioxins in our bodies come from our food.
Because dioxins easily dissolve in fat, foods high in fats tend 
to be higher in dioxins.  The saturated fats in dairy products, 
meat, and some fish and other seafoods are major sources 
of dioxins.   Dioxin levels in foods vary according to where 
the foods were grown or raised (more dioxins are in the 
foods where levels were higher in the environment).  
Although rumors have circulated that dioxins could migrate 
into foods from plastic containers used in microwave ovens, 
the FDA reports that this does not occur. 

What health effects can be associated with 
exposure to dioxins? 
The amount (or dose) of dioxins people are exposed to 
determines the amount in their bodies.  The amount of and 
 the specific types of dioxins present, determines the 
potential health effects.  As levels of dioxins in the body rise, 
the risk of health effects increases.  Because dioxins 
dissolve in fats, they are often deposited in fatty tissues in 
our bodies and stay in place for long periods.   Although 
rare, people who have been exposed to very high levels of 
dioxins may develop skin rashes or a severe acne-like 
condition called “chloracne,” which can be a serious 
disfiguring condition.  Chemical workers, who have had high 
exposures and therefore large amounts of dioxins stored in 
their bodies, appear to be at increased risk of developing 
cancer.  Many forms of dioxin are considered to be 
carcinogens by the US Environmental Protection Agency      
(EPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO).    
Page 2 
Laboratory animal studies involving both low and high dioxin
exposures have identified developmental and reproductive
problems. There are also indications of problems with the
immune and nervous systems, but human studies are not
conclusive.  More research in laboratory animals, including
studies involving long-term, low-level exposures to dioxins, is
needed in order to better understand the risks dioxin exposures
pose to people.  

Studies of military veterans who were exposed to herbicide
orange (also referred to as Agent Orange), which was
contaminated with dioxins, have reported a variety of health
problems, some of which have been attributed to exposure to
dioxins.  Herbicide orange was used during the Vietnam War to
kill foliage and make it harder for the enemy to wage war without
being seen. (For more information, see  

How can exposure to dioxins be prevented?
Because dioxins can be released during low temperature
burning, open burning of trash should be avoided whenever 
possible.  Sometimes this is not possible during 
deployments.  When open burning is required, measures 
should be taken to reduce individuals’ exposures to smoke 
and potentially to dioxins.  These steps include eliminating 
certain types of  materials (like plastics) to be  burned; using 
properly operating incinerators; and locating burn operations 
downwind so the  smoke blows away from areas where 
people are located.  

 The amount of dioxins in one’s body can be gradually 
reduced by choosing to eat foods less likely to contain 
dioxins.  For example, one can limit consumption of high-fat 
foods and liver, since they tend to contain higher levels of 
dioxins, and also reduce the amount of foods that are eaten 
that come from locations known to contain higher levels of 
dioxins, such as seafood from certain bodies of water.  

There is also recent research that suggests that consuming 
some natural chemicals in vegetables might block the effects 
of dioxins.  In general, following Federal Dietary Guidelines 
may also reduce dioxin levels in your body.  People should 
also stop smoking, or never start, to ensure better overall 
health and to reduce dioxin exposure.

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