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Legacy of Our Veterans' Military Exposures
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Agent Orange Dioxin: Hypocrisy and Intransigence- Mainstays of the Agent Orange Controversy Dr. Wayne Dwernychuk Special to

February 09, 2012

In Ha Noi on March 10, 2002 the US and Viet Nam signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which outlined comprehensive human health investigations and studies addressing the environmental consequences of Agent Orange. Although the environmental component of the MOU gained traction and resulted in valuable information being gathered, the human health segment became mired in controversy and disagreements on protocol, and eventually disintegrated, thus terminating any attempt to cooperatively study the human health consequences of the herbicide in the Viet Nam theatre of conflict.

Chemical companies manufacturing Agent Orange, in concert with the US military, claimed ignorance regarding the potential for human health consequences as a result of exposure to the herbicide. However, in a ‘Confidential’ memo dated June 24, 1965 from V. K. Rowe of the Biochemical Research Laboratory of Dow Chemical, it is stated:

"As you well know, we had a serious situation in our operating plants because of contamination of 2,4,5,- trichlorophenol with impurities, the most active of which is 2,3,7,8,- tetrachlorodibenzodioxin [TCDD]. This material is exceptionally toxic; it has a tremendous potential for producing chloracne or systemic injury. …… I am particularly concerned here with persons using the material on a daily, repeated basis such as custom operators may use it. The whole 2,4,5-t industry would be hard hit and I would expect restrictive legislation, either barring the material or putting very rigid controls upon it. …… I trust you will be very judicious in your use of this information. It could be quite embarrassing if it were misinterpreted or misused."

The statement that “systemic injury” is also highly probable, resulting from exposure to the herbicide (i.e., TCDD), effectively categorizes the entire human body as being at risk for serious damage to critical systems/organs as being at risk for serious damage to critical systems/organs ( Dr. Clary made the comment to me (pers. comm., January 21, 2012):

“I would like the US Viet Nam Veterans to know that I tried to do the right thing” … this in reference to him contacting Senator Daschle’s office and making the above noted statement on what the US military knew. In addition to the letter addressed to Senator Daschle, Dr. Clary provided a number of documents/reports to the Senator which further corroborated his declaration. He also wished me to convey these words to any US Viet Nam Veterans who may have occasion to read this article: "Please let them know that I am sorry that I did not come forward sooner. Just maybe I'll sleep a bit better if folks know that at least one scientist with the program [Chemical Weapons Branch] had/has regrets and is sorry for participating ……… I should not have been so naive as to believe that our government would take care of GI's who became contaminated. I really feel sorry for the poor [victims] in Vietnam, knowing how so many have and will continue to suffer the effects of dioxin."

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