Saturday, July 03, 2010

Agent Orange dioxin dangers grossly overstated (Update)

A 1976 industrial accident subjected residents of Seveso, Italy to the "highest known exposure" of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), more commonly known simply as "dioxin". Numerous scientific studies have shown the adverse health effects of the massive Seveso dioxin release to be minimal, the most common consequence being chloracne, a non-fatal malady.

Asian Correspondent today reports that the United Nations has begun cleaning up a site contaminated with Vietnam war era dioxin.

Between 1962 and 1971, the U.S. military sprayed roughly 11 million gallons (41 million liters) of Agent Orange across large swaths of southern Vietnam. Dioxin is a toxic chemical used in the herbicide that has been linked to cancers, birth defects and other ailments.

"Without action, the hotspots will continue to contaminate the wider environment and pose a serious health risk to people living and working nearby," the U.N. Development Program statement said.

Vietnam says as many as 4 million of its citizens were exposed to the herbicide and as many as 3 million have suffered illnesses caused by it, but the United States says there is no scientific evidence to link Agent Orange to the illnesses.

The Vietnamese government, without any scientific justification whatsoever, is attempting to play on American war-guilt to extort US$300 miilion (AU$350 million) from the U.S. government. There's a good chance they'll succeed.

By the way, dioxin was not "used" in the herbicide, it was a by-product of the manufacturing process.

Update: Irate commenters insist that I'm wrong and that dioxin is, in fact, very dangerous, further insisting I'd know how dangerous dioxin is if I had done my research. Wrong. Dioxins are, like pretty much everything on the planet, toxic if consumed in sufficient quantity, but their toxicity is continually overstated.

Dioxins, particularly 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, have been variously described as "the most toxic chemical synthesized by man", as toxic as plutonium, "2,000 times more toxic than strychnine and 150,000 times more toxic than cyanide" and the like. Yet there seem to be no documented deaths resulting from acute dioxin poisoning; this because humans normally encounter dioxins in only vanishing small quantities. There are exceptions, however, two Austrian women stubbornly refusing to die after inadvertently ingesting large quantities of the chemical, "144,000 pg/g blood fat in patient 1 and 26,000 pg/g in patient 2, the highest levels ever measured in adults."

Dioxins have been linked to several cancers and to other adverse health effects but evidence showing dioxins to have caused a significant increase in cancers or other maladies are seriously lacking.

I invite those who think I'm wrong to produce the evidence.


Anonymous Mark Shapiro said...

I notice you live in Perth. Your tax dollars paid for this study:

8:53 PM  
Anonymous Len Aldis said...

I would strongly suggest that J F Beck reads the US-VN Dialogue Ten-Year Plan before he sounds off again about and I quote "the Vietnamese government attempting to play on American war-guilt without any scientific justification whatsoever, is attempting to play on American war-guilt to extort US$300 miilion (AU$350 million) from the U.S. government. There's a good chance they'll succeed."

I doubt if he has met with any victims suffering from the effects of Agent Orange. But then again not surprised at your paper having such a 'correspondent' writing such dribble.

12:05 AM  
Anonymous Chuck Palazzo said...

It is uneducated and biased reporting like this that is a big part of the delay in obtaining adequate and immediate funding to clean-up the environment in Vietnam, provide medical help to all who have been affected, and assistance to those families who have lost loved ones as a result of Agent Orange. Do some research on your own, JF Beck - you would be rather surprised to see, that even the US Government, during the Vietnam War, found a direct link between Agent Orange and various diseases such as cancer and still-births. But it mattered not - the spraying continued for years to come.

5:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Beck,
I realize your unfounded accusation stem from your lack of accurate information not only on the situation in Vietnam and the fact that former US soldiers involved in Vietnam suffer from the same ailments which their government has partly already recognized...But you are definitively misinformed about the Seveso incident!
The website of the Italian Center for Epidemiology and health monitoring and promotion calls it "one of the gravest environmental incidents in Italian history". It lists a series of immediately observable skin and respiratory conditions and refers to a number of authoritative long term studies (3 major phases covered to date) finding strong links to lymphoma, leukemia, pulmonary conditions and some affecting blood circulation. I don’t suppose you speak Italian, in which case I would love to translate the website just for you!
Thi Bay Miradoli

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Chuck Searcy said...

I had intended to respond with a brief but thoughtful comment until I read a few other submissions by JF Beck, and it became apparent that Mr. Beck is not deterred by facts or evidence. Unfortunately, on the issue of Agent Orange, he is not alone. As long as Mr. Beck and others buy into the misstatements and confusion promoted by the chemical industry and some government officials, the discussion will continue to be distorted and an effective solution to the problem will remain out of reach.

11:37 AM  
Anonymous Agent Orange Legacy said...

I don't see that you have provided any proof for what you claim which is? I am not sure I even understand that...the study you mention - Italy - you do not even cite. I believe that is the scholarly approach to such a subject which I would venture to say does not apply to you. You mention deaths due to ingesting agent orange/dioxin. I don't even understand what that has to do with anything. It doesn't prove or disprove a thing. If you want to have an intellectual exchange of the facts, studies, et al then do so but to write articles that are meaningless is a waste of time and energy. Also, it doesn't accomplish a thing, that is, constructive, to say the least. Toxicity isn't the half of's the fact that it mimics hormones which is the most destructive. What does you little black box have on that issue?

12:11 AM  
Anonymous Chekawa said...

Well Mr. Beck everyone sure is taking in a big laugh over you. Some people have no problem making a silly ass out of themselves and you seem to be doing. So to write a opinion is just that, nothing more. I would think you could back up your statements with facts about agent orange and it's use around the world. But you don't even give any clues to counter the studies already completed.
You need to hop on a plane and have a look see for yourself in Vietnam. After doing so write a real report that has some teeth and bite to it. Are you a arm chair reporter? Many reading your statements might seem to think so. But I am reminded that it is people like you who don't make the world go around.Please go get the facts and then report back to us and then maybe we all will see the value in what your speaking about.

2:12 AM  
Anonymous J.M. Heinrichs said...

Having spent two summers frolicking about in areas which had been deforested using Agent Orange, I would suggest the above commenters are "Out To Lunch".


3:07 PM  
Anonymous Len Aldis said...

I address this comment to the Editor.

Your correspondent J. F. Beck is entitled to express his view on any subject, but it has to be stated that his piece on the subject of Agent Orange is way off beam. Indeed, his words are an insult to all those affected by Agent Orange wherever it wss used, but in particular on the people and land of Vietnam.

Beck writes; I invite those who think I'm wrong to produce the evidence.

There is plenty if he wishes to seek it, and would suggest that he makes a visit to Vietnam where he will SEE the victims as I have. Read the many websites of US Veterans and others and he will, if he opens his mind, see,hear and read the evidence he asked for.

He could of course check with the National Academy of Science that has produced lists of illnesses that are due to Agent Orange.

Finally Editor, I would hope that your correspondent will aplogise to the millions affected by Agent Orange, that he has insulted especially to the children.

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one cares about this unless they're trying to get some money from someone or believe every sob story looking for a hand out. Or trolling the web for someplace to put there 2 cents in.

2 cents deposited

7:21 PM  
Anonymous Mark Shapiro said...

oppps! that should read

9:51 PM  

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