From Tue Mar 29 10:01:07 2005
Date: Mon, 28 Mar 2005 16:42:08 -0600 (CST)
Subject: [NYTr] News Summary from RHC—Mar 28, 2005
Article: 208216
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Vietnam: Victim of Worst Chemical Warfare in History

Radio Havana Cuba, 28 March 2005

Paris, March 28 (RHC)— During a recently concluded conference organized in Paris, experts confirmed that the high-potency dioxin-based herbicides spread by the US Army during the war of aggression against Vietnam continue to pose a danger to the health of the Vietnamese people.

Thirty years after the end of the US invasion of the Southeast Asian country, the herbicides—especially Agent Orange—continue to pollute the soil and food, according to experts who met in Paris.

One participant at the conference organized by the Franco-Vietnamese Friendship Society said: “A war of illnesses has followed the actual war.” Tran Xuan Thu, Vice President of the Vietnamese Association of Victims of Agent Orange noted that between 1961 and 1971, the US Army spread more than 100,000 tons of toxic chemical products, making that conflict “the biggest chemical war the world has ever seen.”

In total, 80 million liters of herbicides, principally Agent Orange, were spread over a quarter of the surface area of South Vietnam, according to the environmentalist Vo Quy (National University of Vietnam). “Between 2.1 and 4.8 million people” have been exposed to these products, emphasized Tran Xuan Tran, detailing that the cumulative quantity of dioxin could reach “up to 600 kg.”

Designed to destroy the tropical forest that served as camouflage for guerrilla fighters, these herbicides continue to pollute. Dioxin, one of the most dangerous chemical pollutants, can penetrate down as far as seven feet below the surface of the soil and remains active over more than twenty years.

Cancers, immunological deficiencies, congenital malformations, miscarriages, nervous system damage and chlor-acne are frequently cited as consequences of dioxin exposure, but the Vietnamese studies are not generally published in international scientific reviews.

The American National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine acknowledged two years ago that exposure to Agent Orange can lead to Chronic Lymphoid Leukemia (CLL), a form of cancer of the blood. The findings were based on six studies that provide “adequate proof of an association between exposure to powdered chemical products in Vietnam and the risk of developing CLL.”

The director of the Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minn City—formerly known as Saigon—told participants that there are five characteristic deformities of newborns in Vietnam. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Pjuong, referring to the results of studies that stretch back to the 1980's, said that of 394 children exposed to Agent Orange in utero, 5.4 percent suffer from deformities, versus 0.4 percent among 6,690 children not exposed to the toxic substance.

Another study concerning two groups of women from the same region demonstrates that the risk of deformity was ten times higher (2.28 percent versus 0.22 percent) among the 394 women born and breast-fed while the defoliants were spread over Vietnam than among the 2,281 other women born and breast-fed between 1938 and 1963.

One expert from the Texas University of Public Health, Dr. Arnold Schecter, said that from the beginning of 1979 up to 2004, high levels of dioxin from Agent Orange have been found in human and environmental samplings in Vietnam, including food samples.