Agent Orange still active in Vietnam
Agent Orange continues to contaminate food supplies and local people in Vietnam, over 30 years after it was dropped, a new study has found.The finding, published in the Journal of Occupation and Environmental Medicine, found that six out of sixteen food samples had levels of the TCDD-dioxin (1) from Agent Orange as high as those during the Vietnam war. It concludes that food is the main source of intake for the dioxin, and, consequently, the reason that approximately 95% of blood samples taken in the area were found to have elevated TCDD levels.
Typical blood TCDD levels are 2 parts per trillion (ppt) in Vietnamese people, but levels as high as 413ppt were found in some. This is the highest level ever recorded. Elevated levels of the dioxin were found even in those born many years after the spraying ended.
Agent Orange was sprayed from US aircraft during the Vietnam War, between 1962 and 1972, primarily for use as a defoliant, destroying both tree cover and crops.
Dr Arnold Schecter, lead researcher of the study, said: “This study is one of many that shows Agent Orange is not history. Dioxin contamination is still found in high levels in some Vietnamese, as high as when spraying was going on.”
The study was conducted in Bien Hoa City, near Ho Chi Minh City, an area heavily sprayed with Agent Orange during the war. It was also the site of a substantial leak of over 5,000 gallons of Agent Orange approximately 30 years before the study took place.
Sixteen food samples were collected of chicken, duck, pork, beef, fish, and a toad. Duck meat had the highest levels of the dioxin, followed by the Channa Striata, or snakehead, fish and the toad.
In addition, soil and sediment samples from the Bien Hung Lake also contained elevated TCDD levels.
Dr Schecter told edie that dioxins are only soluble in fat, so only meat samples were chosen. He said that public health measures should now include not eating food from contaminated areas and removing fat from food before cooking. He also urged further studies of the potential health effects of dioxins and other toxic chemicals among veterans of the Vietnam War.
Exposure to Agent Orange has been linked to birth defects and a variety of illnesses, including cancer, diabetes and spina bifida.
Dr Schecter stressed that most of Vietnam’s food supply was not affected as only a relatively small area in the south was sprayed during the war. (1) TCDD = 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin