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House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment

Arnold Schecter, MD, MPH
Professor, Environmental and Occupational Medical Sciences
University of Texas School of Public Health, Dallas Regional Campus,
Dallas, Texas

Our Forgotten Responsibility:
What Can We Do To Help Victims of Agent Orange?

Thursday, May 15, 2008
10:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Room 2172
Rayburn House Office Building

Statement to the House Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment on the impact of Agent Orange


Arnold Schecter, MD, MPH
Professor, Environmental and Occupational Medical Sciences
University of Texas School of Public Health, Dallas Regional Campus,
Dallas, Texas

May 13, 2008

I am a Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Texas, Dallas Campus, and have done public health research on Agent Orange and dioxins in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia since 1984 on 25 occasions. My research  is almost exclusively on dioxins which are the toxic contaminant of Agent Orange. I have also done research on Agent Orange and American Vietnam veterans.

Our findings, working with Vietnamese, German, American, Canadian and Finnish scientists, show  that the dioxin contaminant of Agent Orange, the most toxic of the dioxins, 2,3,7,8-TCDD or TCDD, is still present in some areas of Vietnam in soil, sediment, food, wildlife and people. Most of Vietnam is free of Agent Orange contamination but elevated levels in food have produced high levels in blood and milk of some Vietnamese, from current food intake, not only from Agent Orange sprayed in the past.

Although the health or epidemiology research from Vietnam on cancer and birth defects is not considered conclusive by Western scientists, it has been shown from other studies that dioxins are toxic and can cause, in sensitive people and when the amount of exposure is high enough, cancer, immune deficiency, nervous system damage including lower IQ and emotional problems, endocrine disruption including diabetes, thyroid problems, sex hormone disorders, liver damage, reproductive and developmental pathologies, and death from heart attacks in highly exposed workers.
There is no doubt that certain parts of Vietnam are still contaminated with dioxin from Agent Orange and that there are an unknown number of people living in Vietnam who have elevated levels of dioxin,  All persons in the world now have some contamination with the synthetic compounds known as dioxins. In general, the higher the dose the more illness, so it is likely people are sick, have been sick and will continue to become
sick from dioxin in Agent Orange.

We have documented elevated dioxins in Vietnam in over 100 articles published in the Western scientific literature, usually with our Vietnamese scientific colleagues such as Dr. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong of Tu Du Hospital, Dr. Le Cao Dai (now deceased), Dr. Hoang Trong Quynh, and others.

Dioxin left over from Agent Orange is one of many serious health problems in Vietnam in the past and presently and will continue to be a health problem until its location in people and food is mapped out and food contaminated with dioxin is no longer consumed.

People potentially exposed to dioxins should be provided preventive medical and primary medical care with regular monitoring, and specialized care when indicated. They are at higher risk for disease than people not exposed to dioxin from Agent Orange. Although "the dose makes the poison", that is, the more dioxin the more health damage, even small exposures above background can be harmful to the health of sensitive persons, including exposed fetuses, the young, elderly and sick persons.

I refer you to my book, Dioxins and Health, 2nd Ed, Arnold Schecter and Thomas Gasiewicz, Eds, John Wiley and Sons, Piscataway, NJ, 2003, for further information about health damage which can be caused by dioxins.

If I can be of any further help, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely yours,

Arnold Schecter, MD, MPH
Professor of Environmental Sciences
Univ. of Texas School of Public Health, Dallas
Mail Address: 5323 Harry Hines Blvd, Room V8.112
Physical Address: 6011 Harry Hines, V8.112
Dallas, Texas 75390-9128
Phone: 214-648-1096
FAX: 214-648-1081
E-Mail: arnold.schecter@utsouthwestern.edu
Personal e mail: AJSchecter@aol.com
Cell phone: 214-336-8519

Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign | info@vn-agentorange.org | P.O. Box 303, Prince Street, New York, NY 10012-0006