Monday, April 11, 2011

Agent Orange's Reach to the Next Generation

By Virginia DiBianca

During the1960s and early 1970s, if a boy was not going to college, he was going to Vietnam. The war was not very popular at home and this Asian country was a far cry from the more appealing images of World War II Europe or the beaches of the South Pacific. Vietnam, for many Americans, was a name and land as unheard of as the herbicide Agent Orange that was meant to destroy the foliage the enemy hid behind.

Vietnam has a tropical climate where a monsoon rainy season lasts from May to September creating forestry foliage. The Vietcong took advantage of their natural habitat and hid from their adversaries, the Americans and South Vietnamese. In an attempt to destroy this natural cover, the American military sprayed an abundant amount of the herbicide labeled Agent Orange, which included the highly toxin chemical, dioxin. This powerful herbicide was mixed, transported and sprayed by the servicemen from 1962 to 1971. It was not until after the war ended and reports of serious illnesses were recorded that many war veterans made the connection to Agent Orange.

In August of 2010, the veterans’ organization Vietnam Veterans of America held a conference in Orlando, Florida where the key topic was the exposure of Agent Orange to Vietnam Veterans and its effects on the children of these veterans. While the connection seems obvious, in the medical community, there is still disagreement as to whether dioxin is responsible for the mental and physical disabilities on future generations. Arnold Schecter, a professor of environmental and occupational health science at the University of Texas School of Public Health claims the relationship between Agent Orange and the health problems of the children of those exposed is unsubstantiated even though fathers and mothers who had direct contact with the herbicide have children with serious diseases and disabilities.

Betty Mekdeci, executive director of Birth Defect Research for Children, of Celebration, Florida disagrees and contends that the research is gaining strength towards proving the relationship. Mekdeci, who created a national birth defect registry, feels that the reason the relationship has not been confirmed is that reliable testing is costly and not available in any more than three labs in the world. As reported in The VVA Veteran magazine, children of Vietnam vets are beginning to come forward to report their health problems.

The conference organizers hope to bring more awareness to the health issues associated with Agent Orange through a series of town hall meetings, which were scheduled to start in October 2010 in California. Educating the public, they hope, will be a major boost to supporting the effort of recognizing that the toxic power of Agent Orange not only killed the foliage but also left its mark on the future of even the strongest soldiers who fought in Vietnam.

For further information:
The Agent Orange News site:

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