f Agent Orange Worsens..
30 years after the Vietnam war, the legacy of Agent Orange appears to
It has been
almost three decades since US planes stopped spraying Agent Orange in
local people have
blood dioxin levels more than 100 times higher than normal.
In fact, the latest
figures show levels are at their highest since 1973, say US
Agent Orange was
contaminated by TCDD, a particularly potent dioxin. Dioxins
are classified as
carcinogens. They also impair the immune system, increase
cases of spontaneous
abortion, and reduce IQ in children.
Schecter of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre says
TCDD that seeped into
soil and river beds is becoming concentrated in fish and
water. In some parts
of Vietnam, it is accumulating in children born after the
end of the war.
is no doubt that Agent Orange contamination in Vietnam is not part
it's happening now," Schecter told New Scientist. Anywhere
hundred thousand and several million Vietnamese could be living in
hotspots, he says.
team analyzed blood samples from people living in Bien Hoa in South
Vietnam. Bien Hoa was
used as an air force base and chemical dump by the US
during the war.
Schecter found TCDD
levels up to 135 times higher than those in samples taken
from people in Hanoi,
where Agent Orange was never used. Families with the
highest blood TCDD
levels ate the most fish, he says.
implications for these people are not clear. Vietnamese studies
increased rates of cancer and congenital malformations in dioxin
but international teams claim these studies are inconclusive, says
operation could take ten years. "And there is the question of
clean-up would mobilize, or get rid of the dioxins," he says, but
people could be provided with "clean" food and water.
veterans receive compensation for health problems related to Agent
exposure. Schecter says the US government has pledged to contribute to
projects in Vietnam. But it will not officially provide aid to
Agent Orange, or to compensate Vietnamese people.
US has pledged some funds for Agent Orange research in Vietnam.
the first time this year, the US Congress put in its budget just under $1
joint US and Vietnamese research into Agent Orange in Vietnam. But
being held up by the debate
two governments on linking humanitarian assistance to Agent Orange
health issues," says Schecter.
million gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed in southern Vietnam
war. The herbicide stripped trees of foliage, and helped the US
locate Vietnamese soldiers on the ground.
Scientist Online News; Emma Young
; 1841 GMT, 17
to Vietnam Today