Saturday, January 7, 2017

Bordallo can broaden inquiry into Agent Orange use on Guam

The U.S. Defense Dept. denies that Agent Orange was used on Guam to control vegetation, despite contrary evidence. There are witnesses’ stories, photographs and testimony. There is a Web site that has aggregated some of this material.

The Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) does appear to support claims that Agent Orange was used on Guam. The VA “concluded that herbicides, particularly Agent Orange, were used on Guam from 1968 to 1970,” according to a National Institute of Health (NIH) paper published in 2015, titled “Disparities in Infant Mortality Due to Congenital Anomalies on Guam.”

This NIH study claims to be the first to identify associations between Agent Orange use and infant mortality in civilian populations outside of Southeast Asia. It concluded that “the results suggest that infants born to mothers who resided in AO (Agent Orange) spray areas were at an increased risk of infant mortality due to congenital anomalies.”

A new witness has emerged. An Air Force veteran told the Pacific Daily News that during his time at Andersen Air Force Base, Agent Orange was used.

The news report prompted Guam’s U.S. Rep., Madeleine Bordallo to ask the Air Force about it.

She wrote:

“I am deeply disturbed with the recent claims that Agent Orange was actively used at Andersen Air Force Base during the 1960s and 1970s. While the DoD has acknowledged that Agent Orange did transit through Andersen Air Force Base, it has consistently denied that the chemical was used for any purpose on island. However, I have heard these claims from constituents and from other service members that have served on island. As such, I have asked for the Air Force to provide me with additional information regarding the handling of Agent Orange on Guam as well as any reports of any use of the chemical on island. It is important that DoD provides very clear information regarding this matter to the public. This recent news claims is troubling, and I will work to ensure that our community is fully informed of the facts on this issue.”

There are a few more things that Bordallo can probably do.  She could contact the researchers who wrote the 2015 NIH study and find out if there has been any follow-up research to answer the questions raised by their study. Their report made a strong case for follow-up studies.

Bordallo ought to as, as well, find out whether Agent Orange was used at the Naval bases, and whether its toxins entered in the water supply and Guam's environment generally. People need clarity about the risks. The impact from the use of Agent Orange appears to be, potentially, island wide, based on what the NIH study found.

It would be interesting to know whether veterans who served on Guam during the period the spraying took place, and in the immediate years after, reported unusual medical conditions or conditions linked to Agent Orange.

The Guam government can weigh in as well and provide support for Bordallo.

Bordallo can press a case for a congressional hearing on this issue. The NIH findings alone make the argument for one. The more attention on this issue, the greater the odds others who know something will step forward.

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