HOUSE COMMITTEE ON VETERANS AFFAIRS
Operation Firing for effect
December 6, 2005
I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who said "To sin by silence, when they should protest, makes cowards of men".
We are not cowards we are here to protest the treatment of America's Veterans.
I am the wife of a disabled Vietnam Veteran.
Today, I will be presenting information with regards to “psychopathological disorders” caused by exposures to toxic chemicals and specifically dioxin and its neurotoxic effects.
The Veterans Administration completed a study of Army Chemical Corps workers. I found some results of this study in testimony of a court case.(1)
The 1990 VA study of Army Chemical Corps units found excessive deaths from nervous system diseases such as ALS and multiple sclerosis.
The authors of this study discussed the fact that although these diseases were of unknown origin, "recent studies suggest a possible association between “motor neuron disease” and occupational exposure to organic solvents."
While the Europeans denote “motor neuron disease,” this is the equivalent to our ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
The Australian studies found that out of 40,884 Veterans reporting, they had expected two “motor neuron disorders” instead they found 128.
With respect to multiple sclerosis, they expected 19 and found 84.
The VA study found an excessive hospitalization rate for “mental disorders.” These mental disorder diagnoses were accompanied by findings of “excess brain cancer and nervous system disease.”
Out of approximately 1000 men serving in the Chemical Corps, 894 were located for the study. During the study period from 1978 to 1988, 136 out of the 894 Chemical Corps veterans were treated as inpatients in the VA medical system. Mental disorders were the most common primary diagnosis among the 136 patients.
It was “not reported” what percentage of those 894 were being treated outside the VA medical facilities. It was not reported whether the other veterans not recorded had already died.
The February 1990 Air Force Ranch Hand follow-up morbidity report found a greater frequency of central nervous system deficits in some test categories for Ranch Hand veterans compared to controls. When Ranch Hand veterans or controls that had known past exposures to insecticides were excluded from the analysis (so that any neurological findings could be attributed solely to Agent Orange), Ranch Hand veterans exhibited a significantly elevated relative risk for a measure of cranial nerve function. (1)
The Air Force study released in March 1991 then correlated the physical health findings from the 1990 Ranch Hand study with serum dioxin levels.
Dioxin levels were found to be significantly associated with poor coordination and deficits in a central nervous system index.
The evidence from the 1990 Ranch Hand study is particularly compelling in demonstrating CNS damage from Agent Orange exposure.
“Significant psychological deficits were found among Ranch Hand veterans in several subscales in a battery of psychological tests. In contrast, none of the typical dioxin-related psychological deficits were ever found in statistical excess among matched controls. Ranch Hand Veterans experienced a statistically significant excess of great or disabling fatigue during the day, a condition found among many other populations exposed to dioxin.
Borderline statistically significant verified psychological disorders were found for the category "other neuroses.” A series of tests found a borderline statistically significant excess of Ranch Hands experienced depression, somatization, and the severity of psychological distress. Antisocial and paranoid scores for the Ranch Hands were significantly higher, and the psychotic delusion score was marginally significantly higher for Ranch Hands.
It should be noted here that the Ranch Hand studies also found a direct linear dose response to short-term memory loss. This is more compelling when you add in that a correlation to the number of days of exposure was also found.
These results are for noncombatants who were exposed by “skin contact only.”
Expect for “startle effects” and possibly nightmares, I defy the medical community to explain what the difference is between what is being called “PTSD” and the above description of damages done to the central nervous system by the neurotoxic effects of these chemicals.
Especially given the brain issues the Korean study found. (2) (3)
The 1994 EPA reassessment of dioxin states:
· The EPA has concluded that dioxin is more dangerous than previously thought, even at extremely low doses. It accumulates in the body fat and once in the body, even at very minuscule amounts, interferes with cell development.
· The “brain may be particularly vulnerable” to accumulating dioxin into its fat content. Nervous system tissue itself, with its high lipid content, can also act as a repository for dioxin.
· Dioxin is now known to interfere with the most delicate balanced biological processes in our body.
· The EPA also emphasized that dioxin damages the immune system directly and indirectly.
“Evidence now also reveals that Dow Chemical, a manufacturer of Agent Orange was aware as early as 1964 that TCDD was a byproduct of the manufacturing process. According to Dow’s then medical director, Dr. Benjamin Holder, extreme exposure to dioxins could result in “general organ toxicity” as well as "psychopathological" and "other systemic" problems.”(4) (5)
In 1988, the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School published a study of the psychological disorders of Vietnam veterans heavily exposed to Agent Orange.(1)
The author of the Harvard study concluded that the statistical evidence for “psychological deficits” in the exposed subjects is very strong, based on the neuropsychological battery of tests, as well as on the difference in the rate of PTSD and the associated features of depression, anxiety, and aggression. There were enough significant correlations between the PTSD and neuropsychological measures to make it unlikely that this degree of association could occur by chance.
There is no doubt that PTSD exists in many forms and degrees of severity.
The questions must now be asked:
1 If there were no multiple toxic chemicals involved would this combat disorder be at .5% instead of 28% relatively speaking.
2 Considering this disorder was discovered or first noted in 1980. Is this now a coincidence that after our toxic chemical war this disorder was “all of sudden discovered” by the shear volume of manifestations?
3 Would these combat memories now be regressed instead of amplified by the addition of multiple neurotoxic chemicals that are now exacerbating these issues?
4 Does this explain why the Vietnam Veteran that was not involved in combat if he or she was at one of the remote firebases their entire tour or the shipboard Navy personnel also exhibit the same neurological issues associated with PTSD.
Neuropsychological damage may be one of the most significant consequences of exposure to Agent Orange. (1)
The Office of Technology Assessment (OTA, 1990) concluded that neurotoxic chemicals play a significant casual role in development of psychiatric as well as neurological disorders. Even minor changes in the structure or function of the nervous system were found to have profound consequences for behavioral and other neurological functions. The OTA found that neurotoxic chemicals could cause or exacerbate anxiety, depression, mania, and psychosis.
In addition to the biological basis for the involvement of the Central Nervous System (CNS) and whenever Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) damage is produced by a lipophilic neurotoxicant, there are numerous other investigations to support the casual relationship between dioxin and CNS effects. CNS effects observed in dioxin-exposed populations include depression, anxiety, suicide, decreased cognitive function, fatigue, and poor coordination. The most severe neuropsychological consequence of dioxin exposure is excessive suicides, which has been demonstrated among exposed Vietnam veterans, chemical production workers in the U.S. and European countries, forestry workers, and railroad workers.(1)
In 1977, the Working Group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that neurological and behavioral changes were among the most frequently reported effects in studies of exposures to 2,4,5-T (IARC,
6 out of 7 different populations occupationally exposed to chlorinated phenolic
compounds where neuropsychological symptoms or depressive syndromes were
IARC noted that PNS damage was also found in the same six dioxin exposed populations, including polyneuropathies, lower extremity weakness, and sensorial impairments (sight, hearing, smell, taste). (This would more than likely include the autonomic nervous system such as slowed heart rate, breathing rates, sleep apnea, delayed stomach emptying, and even insulin cycles.)
In 1986, the IARC clearly restated it’s finding that dioxin had been found to be associated with peripheral neuropathies and personality changes (IARC, 1986).
Notice the notations of polyneuropathy, fatigue, and lower muscle weakness. Yet, the Secretary of the VA is still denying these medical abnormalities are associated with any toxic chemical exposures in Vietnam. This is not just a dioxin problem. 2, 4-D (Agent White) is also noted for seeking this more lipid environment repository for itself.
Agent Blue, the code name for cacodylic acid (dimethyl arsenic acid), is noted for many similar issues as Agent Orange, including its neurotoxic effects on the Peripheral Nervous system.(7)
I am perplexed by an official VA report that was released in 2002.(6)
“Investigators confirmed that being wounded in Vietnam and having a combat job in Vietnam were risk factors for PTSD. Data analysis also revealed that those who had non-combat jobs but were wounded had the highest risk of PTSD.”
Over 5,000 United States scientists warned both Johnson and McNamara not to use these toxic chemicals (plural). As no one knew what the short or long-term effects would be.
Since these chemicals were used it is up to our government to help the Veterans affected. That brings up the question of how the VAMC is treating this disorder. For this I will have to use a first hand example.
The generic for Prozac (Fluoxetime HCL) was prescribed. This probably won’t hurt and might help. It seems like half of Americans are taking it or some equivalent. The prescription bottle says “for depression and PTSD” yet when asked if the Veteran has PTSD he is told we will talk about that later.
Risperidone was prescribed. This is an antipsychotic agent used in the treatment of schizophrenia. Yale School of Medicine was given a $6.9 million study into the effectiveness of this anti-psychotic medication for veterans with chronic, military service-related PTSD. 400 Veterans will be used for the study making them guinea pigs again with no legal recourse due to the combination of the Feres Doctrine and the power given the Secretary of the VA in USC38 paragraph 511. Will the VA be altering the files of these 400 Veterans as was done in Albany, NY so that they can qualify? One of the side effects of this medication is it raises the blood sugar level yet it was given to a Veteran with diabetes with no warning. On the prescription bottle this medication says “for agitation“.
Then Prazosin HCL is prescribed. This is a medicine used for hypertension. In other words to lower your blood pressure and the Veteran was told this would happen. The Veteran has good blood pressure without this medication and on this bottle it says “for nightmares and insomnia from PTSD.” This medication has been tested and does help with nightmares but I question its use on someone who does not have high blood pressure.
Two out of three medicines indicate treatment for PTSD yet the prescribing doctor does not want to tell the Veteran he suffers from PTSD thus disallowing him filing a claim. Yet, the VA seems to be on a witch hunt claiming Veterans are receiving benefits for PTSD fraudulently. The VA has launched a study on the diagnosis, treatment, and compensation for PTSD by the NAS/IOM which we are told will cost $1,386,411. Amazing they can do all that for $1.4 million and it takes $7 million to study the effects of one medication, Risperidone.
If our politicians want to hand out social programs like it is taxpayer candy it should not be on the backs of those that made this nation and keep it safe using the DVA as a government denial and stalling lottery tool.
Thank you very much for your time today on what is fast becoming a National Security Issue.
(1) In the United Sates District Court for the Eastern District of New York case of Ivy versus – Diamond Shamrock Chemicals Company.
(2) Impact of Agent Orange Exposure among Korean Vietnam Veterans – Industrial Health 2003, 41, 149-157
(3) Immunotoxicological Effects of Agent Orange Exposure to the Vietnam War Korean Veterans – Industrial Health 2003, 41, 158-166
(4) See L. Casten, Patterns of Secrecy: Dioxin and Agent Orange (1990) (unpublished manuscript detailing the efforts of government and industry to obscure the serious health consequences of exposure to dioxin).
(5) EPA Collusion with Industry: A Very Brief Overview, by Liane C. Casten, Environmental Task Force Chair of Chicago Media Watch.
(6) Department of Veterans Affairs, Agent Orange Brief; Prepared by the Environmental Agents Service (131) C2 VA Central Office, Washington, DC 20420 Aug. 2002
(7) Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisoning, 5th edition, U.S. EPA, Chapter 14.