Friday, April 8, 2011

Veterans Not Only Ones Worrying About Agent Orange Side Effects

By Brittany Shann

Veterans of the Vietnam War have been unfortunately known to have side effects as a result of Agent Orange exposure, but others have reported suffering the same side effects – hydro workers from Manitoulin in Ontario, Canada.

Last month, the Manitoulin Expositor reported that these hydro workers had jobs that consisted of spraying the power transmission lines with chemicals to kill the vegetation.  Their job was similar to that of soldiers in Vietnam who sprayed the same chemical herbicides in order to leave the enemy at the disadvantage of having no place to hide.  Unfortunately, these workers were not told of the danger behind chemical exposure.  They weren’t even given any protective clothing to wear – just goggles, which they often removed if it got too hot.  Additionally, they often sprayed each other with the mist, in order to cool off, because of the high temperatures in the summer.  They were being directly exposed to these chemicals with no warning or guidance about the dangerous effects that could potentially occur.

"We knew we were using a chemical but we were told then that it was safe," said Ron Towns of Little Current, whose 39-year career with Ontario Hydro commenced in 1951. "When I first started with a spraying crew, there was no protective clothing except for a hard hat, and when it got hot you took your shirt off. If it got real warm, you'd spray each other a little bit."

Later on in life, many of these men began experiencing health problems like heart and kidney problems, thyroid problems, infertility, and cancer.  Nobody acknowledged these problems as a side effect of Agent Orange exposure.  None of the workers even made a connection that their jobs as young adults wreaked havoc on their golden years.

As news stories about Agent Orange health issues caught their attention, they began to make the correlation between the chemical exposure and the abundant health problems.  Unfortunately, at that point, nothing could be done.  Some had already died from cancer – before they even hit 55.

The soldiers who fought in the war also experienced severe side effects later in their lives, but those who were doing simple jobs in Canadian forests were also forced to surrender to the exposure.  Those incidents were also covered up or hidden from the workers – just like those in the war.  In fact, the hydro workers were never even given a fair warning.

Perhaps the effects of Agent Orange were unknown to those using it, which is why so many people were unsafely exposed to it.  Perhaps those involved didn’t think the “little people” needed to know that these chemicals could eventually kill them.  Whichever it was, many of those involved in the war effort – on any level – have contracted incurable diseases or have spent their lives battling various health problems.  They deserve to know what happened and they deserve to know why it was so well hidden from them.

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