09 December 2013

Society of Toxicology Takes No Notice of VA's Redefinition of "Exposure"

Repeated requests to the leadership of the Society of Toxicology (SOT) as suggested to us by senior federal government scientists and agency heads, has proved unproductive.

In sum, the SOT let stand unchallenged, and therefore passively endorsed, an action by the VA to redefine "exposure" to require proof of bioavailability as a component. In 2012, the VA presented a poster display at the SOT's San Francisco conference, using the poster to review Agent Orange issues and to introduce VA's internal redefinition of a standard scientific term – exposure. In their poster, VA stated "Exposure=Contamination Field+Bioavailability."

'Tain't so! Exposure is defined, according to the CDC's authoritative Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, as:
Exposure Contact with a substance by swallowing, breathing, or touching the skin or eyes. Exposure may be short-term [acute exposure], of intermediate duration, or long-term [chronic exposure].
Anybody see "bioavailability" there? Nope. Bioavailability, which is the specific impact of a substance on the body (such as caffeine in coffee making the blood pressure increase) is impossible to establish for individuals exposed to Agent Orange. In fact, it takes huge populations, such as the entire corps of Vietnam War veterans, to establish significant epidemiological conclusions about Agent Orange illnesses such as prostate cancer, ALS, IHD and other life-threatening diseases.

So why did VA introduce a redefinition of a scientific term which flies in the face of toxicologists and other health science professionals? Simple...they made bioavailability a requirement of exposure to prevent C-123 veterans from claiming Agent Orange exposure. Policy, not science, in this step!

The law states that exposed veterans will be treated for their Agent Orange illnesses, regardless of where they were exposed. That word...exposed...is what VA needed to challenge in order to deny dioxin-exposed veterans' claims. They couldn't challenge the fact of our duties aboard contaminated former Agent Orange spray aircraft. They couldn't challenge either our diseases or the fact of the C-123's lingering contamination.

So...they invented the pretense that nobody is exposed to a toxin unless and until proof of bioavailability can be offered by the individual. And we can't do that. We obviously have the Agent Orange illnesses and we meet the definition of "exposed" used by the EPA, CDC, USPHS and other authorities, so the VA invented their own definition of the word to insure they had an out for denying our claims.

Thus our appeal to SOT leadership. We asked that they comment on the VA's use of the SOT San Francisco meeting as a platform for attacking veterans benefits through twisted, phony science.

But repeated requests for SOT to do something have failed. They stand mute. Weeks ago, we were assured their leadership would discuss the issue during a high-level conference call, but nothing has happened even with several recent inquiries and reminders of how important this word "exposure" has become.

They should read the definition of "professional" and should also re-read their own definition of "toxicology" because it includes the communication of the effects of agents.

That communication, so important to science, was twisted by the VA and the SOT has failed to challenge their twisted, policy-driven deceptions. In their passivity, SOT, even though the posters weren't juried, in effect endorses this new VA definition of "exposed" to the harm of veterans and our families.

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