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Le procès à travers la presse et la radio

Agent Orange, Indemnisation des Victimes (... au Canada)
Radio Canada

L'agent orange en procs New York
France 24

L'agent orange poursuit ses ravages au Vietnam
Rseau Cano

Ministry offers support to dioxin sufferers (New Zealand)

Agent Orange : Des soldats seront indemniss
Radio Canada

The Last Battle of Vietnam

Philips taken to court over Agent Orange claims worth 1 bln eur
CNN Money

Monsanto dumped toxic waste in UK
The Guardian - UK

Dioxine : aide amricaine dcontaminer laroport de D Nang
Courrier du Vietnam

US cash for Agent Orange study

Late US veteran gives $50,000 aid to Agent Orange victims

Recherches sur cancer et produits chimiques finances par l'industrie chimique ?
Actualits News Environnement

Un chercheur rmunr par l'industrie chimique

Vietnam: pas d'indemnisation des victimes de l'Agent orange

Agent orange, Ottawa publie ses rapports d'enqute
Radio Canada

VIETNAM "L'agent orange est une arme de destruction massive"

The things they still carry
Daily Southtown

For victims of Agent Orange, final battle still being waged
Fairfax Digital (Australia)

US appeals court to consider Agent Orange appeal in June
Vietnam new agency

Vietnam les oublis de la dioxine
Le Monde .fr

Trente ans aprs la guerre, un million de Vietnamiens souffrent encore des effets du terrible Agent Orange.

Rediscovering Vietnam: Agent Orange's effects
St Louis Today (St Louis Web site

A long-ago war's grimmest legacy lives on

GAO Report on Agent Orange: Limited Information Is Available on the Number of Civilians Exposed in Vietnam and Their Workers' Compensation Claims
All American Patriot

Agent Orange Dioxin Raises Cancer Risk in Vietnam Veterans
Food Consumer

Spokane native to be honored posthumously

Vietnamese appeal U.S. court's ruling on Agent Orange case

Vietnamese Agent Orange victims file appeal request
Thanh Nien News

US abandons health study on Agent Orange
Nature 434, 687

Peter Yarrow apologizes to Vietnam
Associated Press

La page peut tre dj retire.

A long-ago war's grimmest legacy lives on


[24-04-2005]  Sitting stiffly on a wooden bench in an open-sided concrete front room in a working-class section of Da Nang, the sad young woman acknowledges her visitors but does not return their smiles. Chickens softly cluck from the room behind.
On her lap is a child in a pink knit hat, little feet waving in the air. She tells the interpreter the boy, Minh, is 5, but tiny white socks sag around ankles that should belong to an infant.

Then, abruptly, the mother lifts her son's T-shirt.

Instead of the chubby belly of childhood, this torso is twisted, the skin taut over a gnarled rib cage that juts grotesquely from the right side of his chest.

This is Nguyen Thi Lan's fourth child. Unable to see, hear or speak, he is the most severely disabled of the three children she believes are victims of Agent Orange, the poison that rained out of Vietnamese skies more than four decades ago.

This month, 30 years after the last American forces fled Saigon just ahead of the Viet Cong, the Vietnamese say a third generation is being born with devastating mental and physical abnormalities they attribute to the herbicide sprayed over the landscape during the war. The Vietnamese government blames Agent Orange for the serious health problems of at least 1 million people.

The ailing are not obvious on the streets of Hanoi, Da Nang or Ho Chi Minh City. But behind the doors of havens like the Vietnam Friendship Village Project, a home for handicapped children, visitors come face to face with the legacy of war: arms and legs twisted like pipe cleaners, heads so misshapen and facial features so monstrously deformed as to seem hardly human.

And yet, it is in such places that hope lives. A teenage girl takes her first steps. An organic gardener, born in New Jersey, nurtures healthy produce in a land where some soil is still poisonous.

John Berlow, 55, who spent his childhood in Maplewood and still has an aunt in Oradell, has lived in Hanoi since 2000. Once a war protester, he says he was drawn to the children's home to try "to turn my anger into something good."

"These are kids with birth defects because their father or their grandfather and the land was sprayed by Agent Orange. It destroyed forests, had terrible effects on the country. ... Organic gardening is good for the land."

From 1961 to 1971, the U.S. military sprayed 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides over South Vietnam to clear the dense forest canopies and destroy crops. Designed only as defoliants, many of these herbicides were far more troublesome because they contained dioxin, an unintended byproduct of their manufacture. Although use of Agent Orange did not begin until 1965, it accounted for 80 percent of all herbicide use in Vietnam.

The Environmental Protection Agency describes dioxin as one of the most toxic chemicals to human health. In a 1978 manual on Agent Orange, the EPA said dioxin was "highly embryotoxic [and] teratogenic," meaning it can cause fetal malformation and monstrosities, and that its "greatest hazard is to pregnant females and their fetuses."

Two years ago, public health researchers at Columbia University went back to wartime military records, including the flight logs of pilots who flew spraying missions. They created the first detailed map of areas targeted with Agent Orange and calculated the concentrations of herbicide accumulated through the years of spraying.

The study, headed by Dr. Jeanne Mager Stellman, said that up to 4.8 million Vietnamese were living in 3,181 villages that were directly showered with Agent Orange. It also concluded that the dioxin remaining in Vietnam's forests, fields and mangrove swamps could be four times higher today than what previous estimates had predicted.

A separate study by a Canadian environmental company, Hatfield Consultants Inc., put levels of dioxin "hot spots" around Vietnam almost as high as they were during the war. The herbicide lingers in soil and sediments and migrates into the tissues of fish and fowl that people eat.

The birth defects still showing up in Vietnam are attributed both to suspected genetic mutations suffered by villagers and soldiers who were directly sprayed and to the lingering presence of Agent Orange in the food chain.

"Not to take anything away from the American vets, but they were there for only two years. The Vietnamese have been living with this for the last 30," says L. Wayne Dwernychuk, senior biologist with Hatfield, based in Vancouver, Canada.

Over those decades, the U.S. government has repeatedly turned aside pleas from Vietnam for financial help for Agent Orange ailments. It argues that spraying the herbicides was an acceptable practice in wartime and that no U.S.-approved research links Agent Orange to the severe birth defects and other health problems plaguing Vietnam.

That response starkly contrasts with the benefits now available to U.S. veterans, albeit after prolonged legal battles, and to the list of illnesses officially linked to the herbicide.

In 1979, veterans filed a class-action lawsuit against the companies that made Agent Orange. They settled out of court in 1984 for $180 million. Since then, the Department of Veterans Affairs has recognized a link between Agent Orange exposure and at least 11 categories of illness, including diabetes and assorted cancers and neurological disorders. Since 1978, the VA's Agent Orange Registry program has examined more than 420,000 Vietnam veterans, and at least 10,000 ex-GI's now receive compensation for illnesses related to Agent Orange exposure.

In 1997, the government also began providing for treatment of children of Vietnam veterans who were born with spina bifida. In 2001, benefits were expanded to cover such children born to female Vietnam veterans.

The National Academy of Sciences, charged by Congress with studying the health effects of Agent Orange, has several times recommended that the "understudied" Vietnamese population be examined to fill gaps in understanding long-term consequences of dioxin exposure. At least two joint research efforts have fallen through. The latest was on Feb. 24, when the United States canceled a project planned for two years, involving Vietnamese scientists and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, citing a lack of cooperation from the Vietnamese.

Last year, in an effort to force some level of aid or compensation, the Vietnam Lawyers Association joined with the National Lawyers Guild, a human-rights advocacy association based in New York, to sue the companies that produced Agent Orange, including Dow Chemical and Monsanto.

The plaintiffs argued that the chemical companies had committed war crimes against the citizens of Vietnam because the dioxin in Agent Orange was a poison barred by international rules of war.

Judge Jack Weinstein of U.S. District Court in Brooklyn dismissed the suit March 10. Weinstein, who also presided over the veterans' class-action suit 20 years ago, ruled that the poisoning of villagers was a side effect of deforesting a battleground and was neither a crime against humanity nor a violation of international law.

The ruling, which the lawyers appealed April 8, prompted angry response in Vietnam.

"It is an unreasonable, irrational and unfair decision," the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin said in a statement. "The U.S. administration has recognized Agent Orange/dioxin victims among U.S. war veterans. ... It is illogical that Vietnamese people who were exposed to Agent Orange sprayed during the war could be denied."

Beyond the Vietnamese actually sprayed with Agent Orange are the generations born since, some suffering birth defects, others sickened by contact with herbicide still lurking in soil and under water, such as the sediments in rice paddies or fish ponds made from bomb craters.

In the Buddhist religion, the misfortune of giving birth to deformed babies is often interpreted as payback for something bad done earlier in life. Parents often keep trying to have a healthy child, which can simply compound the family's burden, as in the case of Nguyen Thi Lan and her three disabled children.

A few of these children find help with Friendship Village, a project started by U.S. and Vietnamese veterans of the war that now has contributing chapters in Canada, Germany, France and Japan. Its complex of red-roofed buildings near Hanoi has space for 30 Vietnamese veterans suffering the effects of Agent Orange and 120 children from villages in north and central Vietnam.

These are the progeny of northerners who went south to fight and found themselves sprayed from above. They returned home after the war, unaware they bore illnesses or mutated chromosomes that the Vietnamese now argue have doomed successive generations.

At Friendship Village, the less disabled children are taught simple trades, like making flowers from silk and wires.

But in the new dormitory building just down the path, fresh paint and clean corridors do little to lift a grim sadness. The children have heard they are getting visitors. A young girl with an enormous toothy grin steps jerkily down the stairs. A thin boy wearing a gray knit cap over his misshapen head rolls his wheelchair silently into the corridor.

Near the entrance is another boy in a wheelchair, his body tilted slightly, braced by stubby, misshapen arms. At first, it looks as if the boy has one leg crossed over the other. A closer look reveals that one of his thin, brown legs has grown horizontally at a right angle from the knee.

Berlow, the New Jersey gardener, also has been a lawyer, a teacher and a cook in a Zen monastery. He says he saw the Friendship Village compound as the perfect place for an ambitious organic garden. One of the village's goals is to feed the children the best nutrition, and his homegrown vegetables - tomatoes, cabbages, onions, broccoli, green beans, cucumbers - make that attainable. Taking long, purposeful strides through rows of cabbage behind the school building, Berlow says the garden has produced two tons of vegetables in this first year, and several Hanoi restaurants have agreed to feature its harvests.

Because Agent Orange was not sprayed over North Vietnam, this garden's soil is not contaminated. Berlow keeps it organic, eschewing pesticides, because of the precarious health of the villagers.

The children often work in the garden, but this day is gray and cold, and a drizzle starts to fall. Just past the garden, inside a chilly warehouse-like building, a heat lamp casts a red glow over a girl sitting upright on an examining table, knobby-kneed legs straight out in front of her. A doctor palpates one knee, speaking softly in Vietnamese. The girl scoots to the edge of the table.

In all her 17 years, Nguyen Thi Yen has never walked. Both legs were deformed at birth. Late last year, she had corrective surgery.

The doctor brings over a child-sized crutch and secures its cuff around her lower arm. The girl stands unsteadily, legs slightly splayed, arm wobbling in the brace. On her face is a mix of concentration and determination, with a trace of fear.

She picks up one leg and swings it forward and down. She teeters but does not fall. The other leg, another step. She is moving, on her own, across the cold concrete. After a few turns, she returns to the table and heat lamp - and releases her breath.

Four hundred miles away in Da Nang, a mother sits with a child in her arms. The boy will never see her face or hear her voice or speak her name. He will certainly never walk. When the interpreter asks the woman what she sees for the future, she weeps.

* * *

Troubled past

Agent Orange was created as a defoliant but proved far more troublesome because its manufacturing process also produced a highly toxic dioxin. A brief look at the herbicide that left a 20th century legacy of illness:

# Developed to destroy Japanese crops in World War II but never used.

# 1946, first commercial use in United States, as weed killer.

# 1961, President John F. Kennedy authorizes use of defoliants in Vietnam to destroy crops and foliage concealing enemy troops. In all, 15 herbicides were used, many of which contained dioxin. Starting in 1965, Agent Orange became the most widely used. Its name comes from orange stripes on the 55-gallon drums it was shipped in.

# 1969, researchers find high levels of birth defects in lab animals exposed to Agent Orange.

# 1971, military suspends spraying of all herbicides used in Vietnam, including Agent Orange. Overall, more than 20 million gallons of herbicides were sprayed over 6 million acres, about the size of Massachusetts, exposing an estimated 4.8 million Vietnamese and 3 million U.S. troops.

# 1979, Environmental Protection Agency bans Agent Orange in the United States after a large number of stillbirths are reported in western Oregon, where the U.S. Forest Service had flown repeated aerial defoliation missions.

# More than 20 companies produced Agent Orange, including Dow Chemical, Monsanto and Newark-based Diamond Alkali Co. In 1984, Diamond Alkali's chemical plant and a six-mile reach of the Passaic River were listed as a Superfund site.

Sources: Environmental Protection Agency; Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry; Environmental Agents Service of Veterans Affairs; Environmental Literacy Council.
* * *

Disease links acknowledged

In 1994, the Veterans Benefits Improvement Act formally established the presumption that certain diseases were linked to Agent Orange exposure during military service in Vietnam. At least 10,000 ex-GIs now receive compensation for illnesses related to Agent Orange exposure.

The illnesses officially recognized as associated with Agent Orange |exposure:

Chloracne: Severe acne-like lesions that occur mainly on face and upper body; considered a clinical sign of dioxin exposure.

Diabetes, Type 2 (formerly called adult-onset)

Peripheral neuropathy: Disruption of nerve pathways between brain and rest of the body, manifested in wide array of symptoms from tingling to burning pain to paralysis.

Porphyria cutanea tarda: Marked sensitivity to sunlight, characterized by blistered and thinning skin.

Hodgkin's disease: Cancer of the lymph system.

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma: Malignant growth of particular lymph cells.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia: Abnormal cell production in bone marrow.

Soft-tissue sarcoma (23 types): Cancerous cells in muscles, tendons, internal organs, blood vessels, etc.

Respiratory cancers: Malignancies in lungs, larynx, trachea or bronchial tubes.

Multiple myeloma: Cancer of the blood's plasma cells.

Prostate cancer

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs

Croix Rouge Vietnamienne

Croix Rouge Vietnamienne
82 Nguyen Du, Hanoi
Tel: 00 844 8224030 et
00 844 9420860
Fax: 00 844 9424285

Office of Genetic Counseling & Disabled Children

Hue Medical College
06 Ngo Quyen Street
Hue City - Vietnam
Tel: +84 54 833694
Fax: +84 54 826269

Fund for Reconciliation and Development

Pour suivre le Procès en cours à New York:

Visitez la page
Agent Orange Lawsuit

de cette organisation.

Articles parus dans les journaux depuis le 28/02/2005.