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Daily News Archive
From July 3, 2001

Vietnam Calls for Dioxin Survey

US laboratory tests of blood from 24 out of 25 people taken in 1999 and 2000 in the southern city of Bien Hoa, where there was a big wartime spillage of Agent Orange, were found to have "alarmingly high" dioxin levels. Vietnam's Health Minister Do Nguyen Phuong agreed that these findings do constitute an urgent health matter and a need to begin taking emergency steps, according to Reuters.

University of Texas Professor Arnold Schecter, one of the foremost Agent Orange experts after research in Vietnam dating back to 1984, gathered the blood samples with Hanoi's top researcher Le Cao Dai, executive director of the local Red Cross. Tests were performed on the blood in the US.

Schecter said the tests had showed "a large number of people at increased risk for illnesses of all kinds caused by dioxin, whether its cancer, lower IQ for children, emotional problems for children… spontaneous abortions and maybe some malformation if the mother is exposed."

Schecter envisaged hundreds of perhaps thousands of people being tested in 30-50 Agent Orange hot spots starting within weeks. He said it would be the biggest survey of its kind ever carried out in Vietnam. The initiative is pending the approval of Veitnam's Committee 33, the body in charge of Agent Orange projects under Science Minister Chu Tuan Nha.

The US sprayed millions of gallons of Agent Orange and other defoliants on Vietnam from 1962 to 1971 to deny communist fighters jungle cover. The chemicals contained TCDD, the most dangerous form of dioxin. Bein Hoa was once home to a huge US base where there was a major Agent Orange spill during the Vietnam War. The spill is thought to have contaminated a lake where locals fish and swim.

Care for any proven victims and clean up of contaminated area would likely run to hundreds of millions of dollars.