28 April 2013

Report: Scientists Confirm Veterans C-123 Agent Orange Exposure

There are two foundations for C-123 veterans’ Agent Orange claims (legal and scientific) and we’re going to look into the scientific basis. But first the legal: under the 1991 Agent Orange Act, and the Federal Register of 8 May 2001, all veterans exposed to military herbicides will be treated the same as are Vietnam veterans.

The Basis for C-123 Agent Orange Veterans Claims 

The C-123 aircraft were contaminated with Agent Orange following their Ranch Hand spraying operations during Vietnam, and aircrews, maintenance and aerial port personnel after the war were exposed while flying and maintaining the toxic airplanes between 1972-1982. Agent Orange, especially in the earlier years of the Vietnam War, was contaminated with dioxin, also known as TCDDTCDD is a known carcinogen, and considered the most toxic of the toxins. Not a good thing in our airplanes!

Exposure to a toxin such as TCDD is via inhalation, ingestion or dermal routes. C-123 veterans experienced all three routes, but base claims on dermal exposure and inhalation. Generally, dioxin exposure is most readily via ingestion, then inhalation, then dermal routes.

In 1979 Air Force testing first confirmed the presence of “military herbicides” on the C-123, although no testing was completed for dioxin. The first comprehensive scientific testing of that same C-123 was fifteen years later in 1994 at the Air Force Museum, where the warplane was found to be “heavily contaminated” and “a danger to public health” by the Air Force toxicologists Drs Ron Porter and Wade Weisman. Using standard hexane wipes, they detected high levels of dioxin on all test surfaces, and consequently mandated HAZMAT protection for museum personnel working around that airplane until decontamination, which required three attempts, was decontaminated.

The 1994 Porter/Weisman data was joined by test results on airplanes stored at the Air Force boneyard in Arizona, where tests were completed between 1999 and 2009. These tests continued to show the toxicity of the warplanes, although degrading over time since the last Agent Orange spray missions completed in 1971.  Air samples were generally acceptable and wipes continued to report dioxin contamination.

Unable to justify decontamination of the aged airplanes and forced to address their disposal in some manner, the Air Force ordered all C-123s destroyed as toxic waste in 2010. At that point no further testing was possible, although two former spray aircraft used as museum displays may someday be examined (Pima Air Museum, AZ and the AF Museum at Warner-Robins AFB, GA). 

Thus, only the testing data already existent is available to analysis. When the veterans learned of the C-123 contamination via the Freedom of Information Act results in 2011, their inquiries to the Department of Veterans Affairs were immediately, and apparently without any even-handed analysis, rebuffed with VA insistence that the airplanes could not have exposed the veterans.

The veterans, convinced by the 1994 Air Force test results, turned to recognized experts in universities and government agencies to find confirmation of their exposure.

The first of these was Dr.Fred Berman of Oregon Health Sciences University Toxicology Program. Berman, himself a licensed pilot, examined the results of Porter/Weisman and concluded veterans were exposed. Addressing the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. Berman wrote:
Berman had earlier participated in a teleconference between scientists, VA staff and veterans on the issue of C-123 exposure, and in his independent expert opinion dismissed the VA’s contention that the “dried dioxin” on the aircraft could not have exposed the aircrew. In particular, he noted that there was no support in scientific literature for precluding exposure to dry, or surface dioxin, and that two of the authors cited by the VA had themselves stated their articles did not address aircrew exposure and were not relevant to that issue. 
Dr. Jeanne Stellman was also consulted by the C-123 veterans, and she, too, provided an in-depth analysis of their exposure. Dr. Stellman is world-famous in dioxin issues, a decades-long focus of her professional career in public health. Her conclusion paralleled that of Dr. Berman. She confirmed their exposure in her message to the veterans:
Dr. Stellman also concluded C-123 veterans were exposed more than ground soldiers were in Vietnam, and somewhat less than aircrews in the wartime Agent Orange spray operations. She strongly and directly criticized the VA’s “dry dioxin transfer” position (which VA used to argue against the veterans’ exposure) by writing, “These statements, to be blunt, are technically flawed and show insufficient understanding of surface contamination. Concerned about the poor science procedures followed by the VA, and acting on behalf of fifteen of her physician and scientific colleagues, Dr. Stellman wrote the Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs to challenge the government’s position on C-123 veterans.

Further support for the veterans’ exposure claims was offered by the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Deputy Director Dr. Tom Sinks, whose opinion was later joined by that of the ATSDR Dr. Christopher Portier, confirmed the C-123 exposures. While lamenting the paucity of available testing data, Dr. Sinks, and later Dr. Portier, wrote:

Further agreement with the veterans’ claims to have been exposed were provided by Dr. Wayne Dwernychukretired chief scientist of the Hatfield Group, the leading engineering and environmental group specializing in Agent Orange. Dr. Dwernychuk concurred with the findings of Berman and Stellman, and the ATSDR, and using the VA’s preferred language reported the group of C-123 veterans “is more likely than not to have been exposed.” Dwernychuk in addition, particularly challenged the statement used by the VA's director of Compensation and Pension in denying a veterans’ exposure claim, where the government stated “there is no conclusive evidence that TCDD exposure causes adverse health effects”. This statement I find blatantly disingenuous” wrote Dr. Dwernychuk.

Among the physicians examining the C-123 exposure issue are Dr. Arnold Schecterprofessor of medicine at the University of Texas Medical School. Dr. Schecter is perhaps America’s leading physician specializing in Agent Orange, and offered his opinion:

The US Public Health Service also reviewed the C-123 Agent Orange issue, and Dr. Aubrey Miller’s expert finding on behalf of that agency was:

Another expert offering her careful review of the exposure issue is Dr. Linda BirnbaumDirector of the National Institutes of Health/National Toxicology Program. Her opinion:
Each of these authorities has volunteered their independent expert opinions and findings, while the VA position against veterans’ exposure was written by staffers assigned to do so as part of their jobs. 

Observers might compare the CVs of the VA staff to those of the independent experts...those writing for the VA are hard to even find, if at all, in Google Scholar while the independent experts, like Shecter, Birnbaum and Stellman, total hundreds of pages of CV references and thousands of pages of scholarly contributions to this field. Isn't it clear...people opposed by the senior scholars of their profession! Imagine a court setting with opposing "experts" and the obvious differences between them...no court would fail to side with the veterans, and indeed, no BVA will fail to award service connection for a C-123 veteran but we simply don't have the years waiting for BVA justice!
Supporting the C-123 veterans’ claim to have been exposed aboard the toxic C-123 fleet are federal agencies such as the EPA, NIH and CDC, and prestigious universities and independent experts. The scientists named here have stressed to the veterans that they’re not advocates for one view or another, but instead neutral observers whose opinions are based on the science involved, not the politics. And the veterans note that gives their conclusion about exposure even more weight.
The C-123 veterans ask the VA to yield on its predetermined disqualification of these airman from Agent Orange medical care. Congressmen and senators are asked to stress to the VA our complete qualification under the law for the care we desperately need for our Agent Orange illnesses.
(note: source documents for each issue dealt with are downloadable from www.c123kcancer.blogspot.com)
-- http://youtu.be/JtFQ1svAp

No comments:

Post a Comment

Got something to share? Nothing commercial or off-topic, please.