Saturday, March 25, 2006

04: “More Agent Orange News”

A recent news article from Australia confirms the findings of a study done several years ago by the Australian Navy. Suspicious after being told by the U.S. not to make fresh water using their ship’s desalinization (evaporators) plants while operating inshore of Vietnam, the Australian Navy decided to find out why. The results have been floating around the Internet for several years, thanks in large part to the fine work done by Veteran’s Advocate Ms. Taura King out in California. We’ll let the article lay out for you what the study found, and what the Aussies are doing about it.

[Note: The Repatriation Medical Authority is an independent board that determines medical conditions’ causes and linkages to military situations for the Australian Department of Veteran Affairs.]

Navy Shipboard Vietnam cancers linked to water

WED 22 MAR 2006, Page 003
By: Simon Kearney

SAILORS who served on naval ships during the Vietnam War have been told their ships' drinking water, which was contaminated with Agent Orange, could be causing their cancers.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is investigating a link between the number of cancers among sailors and the desalinated water on board some ships, which contained dioxins from the deadly defoliant.

The alarm relates to ships that took on water in Vung Tau harbor in Vietnam between 1965 and 1972, specifically HMAS Sydney, which made 23 trips to Vietnam during the war, and her escort ships.

Between 1980 and 1994 as many as 170 navy personnel died from cancers potentially related to the water on the ships, according to the Mortality of Vietnam Veterans cohort study.

An updated mortality study on Vietnam veterans is due to be released later this

The problem was identified nearly three years ago when the National Research Center for Toxicology found that desalinated drinking water taken from the estuary was contaminated with Agent Orange, which was sprayed widely across the country during the war.

“We are investigating what the issues associated with water and water taken from Vietnamese waters are, and the RMA (Repatriation Medical Authority) have made some progress in that in terms of providing some linkages,” Department of Veterans Affairs secretary Mark Sullivan said in a Senate budget estimates hearing last month.

He said drinking the water was linked to prostate cancer, bone marrow cancer, and two cancers of the lymphatic system, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and Hodgkin's lymphoma.

“It (RMA) is still considering the medical and scientific evidence for the inclusion of a potable water factor in the investigations for malignant neoplasm of the lung (lung cancer), soft tissue sarcoma, malignant neoplasm of the larynx (throat cancer) and acute myeloid leukemia,” Mr. Sullivan said.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is urging former navy personnel who have these conditions and served on ships that anchored in Vung Tau harbor to submit or resubmit claims.

“What we encourage all veterans to do, if they are unwell or have a condition or disease and they have any suspicion that that condition is related to their service, is to put in a claim.

We will investigate it,” Mr. Sullivan said.

However, Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia president Ron Coxon said the Government had not gone far enough because veterans had to prove they spent a total of 30 days drinking the water.

“They talk about 30 cumulative days but we don't know how much of the dioxin actually settled in the tank because they never cleaned them,” he said.

The initial toxicology report found that distilling seawater concentrated the dioxins in the water navy personnel were drinking and washing in to above safe levels. The report was an attempt to explain why more navy personnel were dying after the war than other veterans.

Of the 55,000 Australians who served in Vietnam, 12,376 were in the navy.

Opposition veteran’s affairs spokesman Allan Griffin said the Department of Veterans Affairs was not being active enough about warning veterans who might be at risk.

Simon Kearney
The Australian newspaper
2 Holt Street
Surry Hills
NSW 2010


It appears the Aussies are almost as unwilling as the US Veterans Administration to accept that naval and maritime personnel operating off the coast of Vietnam were indeed subject to the dangers of dioxin from the widespread spraying of the defoliants in several areas of Southeast Asia. In particular, I Corps area in the northern part of Vietnam, just below the DMZ, and III corps area which was a large area surrounding Saigon, the Mekong River and its delta were subject to the highest concentrations of applied dioxins.

U.S. Navy vessels operated close inshore to support the ground troops ashore with naval artillery (Naval Gun Fire Support or NGFS), and in many cases operated within several hundred yards of the beach. During extended periods on the gun line, ship would have been forced to operate their fresh water evaporators to make fresh water from sea water.

The United States Veteran’s Administration unfairly excluded these “blue water sailors” from qualifying for Agent Orange benefits under the false premise that they were not exposed unless they “set foot on the ground” inside Vietnam.

Contact your Veteran’s Service Organization (American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS, VVA, etc.) and have them get active in the press to right this extremely wrong and uncaring exclusion. Contact your Congressman and pressure them to get on board and move in Congress to correct the law.

This cannot be allowed to stand.


“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.” -- President Abraham Lincoln

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --President George Washington

Copyright © 2006: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

  1. It is possible to get VA recognition of Agent Orange exposure from Destroyer Service on the Gunline. Here's a link to the language I used in my appeal.