Space Oddity

Times Beach Disaster

Packing away the poison

Polychlorinated dibenzodioxins

The forests and jungles in large parts of southern Vietnam have been devastated and denuded.

They may never grow back and if they do, it will take 50 to 200 years to regenerate.

Animals that inhabited the forests and jungles have become extinct.

The rivers and underground water have been contaminated.

Erosion and desertification has changed the environment, contributing to global warming and the dislocation of crop and animal life.

Children are born without brains, with deformed limbs and multiple mutations.

Only 14 parts per trillion (PPT) of dioxin in breast milk can cause severe deformities in fetuses and even death.

Up to 1450 PPT are found in breast milk in Vietnam.

The US government and the chemical companies knew that Agent Orange, when produced rapidly at high temperatures, would contain large quantities of dioxin.

Nevertheless, the chemical companies continued to produce it in this manner.

The US government and the chemical companies also knew that the Bionetics Study, commissioned by the government in 1963, showed that even low levels of dioxin produced significant deformities in unborn offspring of laboratory animals.

They suppressed the study and continued to spray Vietnam with Agent Orange.

It wasn't until the study was leaked in 1969 that the spraying of Agent Orange was discontinued.

"When we initiated the herbicide program in the 1960s we were well aware of the potential for damage due to dioxin contamination in the herbicide. We were even aware that the military formulation had a higher dioxin concentration than the civilian version, due to the lower cost and the speed of manufacture. However, because the material was to be used on the enemy, none of us were overly concerned." - Air Force scientist James Clary

When the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange sued the chemical companies in federal court, US District Judge Jack Weinstein dismissed the lawsuit, concluding that Agent Orange did not constitute a poison weapon.

US soldiers who served in Vietnam sued the chemical companies, including Dow and Monsanto, that manufactured and sold Agent Orange to the government, the case settled out of court for $180 million.

US veterans then won a legislative victory for compensation for exposure to Agent Orange.

They receive $1.52 billion per year in benefits.

George Mizo served in the US Army in Vietnam in 1967.

George Mizo slept on contaminated ground and consumed food and drink that were also contaminated.

George Mizo refused to serve after he was wounded for the third time; he was court-martialed and sentenced to 2-1/2 years in prison and given a dishonorable discharge.

George Mizo died from conditions related to his exposure to Agent Orange.

Dioxins are absorbed primarily through dietary intake of fat, as this is where they accumulate in animals and humans.

In humans, the highly chlorinated dioxins are stored in fatty tissues and are neither readily metabolized nor excreted.

The estimated elimination half-life for highly chlorinated dioxins (4-8 chlorine atoms) in humans ranges from 7.8 to 132 years.

Exposure to high levels of dioxins in humans causes a severe form of persistent acne, known as chloracne.

A case-control study has shown an elevated risk of sarcoma (a type of cancer) associated with low-level exposure (4.2 fg/m3) to dioxins from incineration plants.

Dioxins in the Food Supply

Dioxin! What Citizens, Workers and Policymakers Should Know

High levels of exposures to dioxins have been shown by epidemiological studies to lead to an increased risk of tumors at all sites.

Other effects in people include:

developmental abnormalities in the enamel of children's teeth;

central and peripheral nervous system pathology;

thyroid disorders;

damage to the immune systems;



Recent studies have shown that exposure to dioxins changes the ratio of male to female births among a population such that more females are born than males.

Dioxins accumulate in food chains in a fashion similar to other chlorinated compounds (bioaccumulation).

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