by The New Zealand Herald, Health & Fitness
- DNA injury confirmed in Vietnam veterans
by Patrick Gower (July 29, 2006)
- Agent Orange study to show significant damage
UPDATED 2.15pm (Friday July 28, 2006)
- Vietnam vets in line for Agent Orange payouts
by Errol Kiong (July 24, 2006)
- Report may show DNA damage in Vietnam vets
(July 23, 2006)
DNA injury confirmed in Vietnam veterans
by Patrick Gower
July 29, 2006
A study of New Zealand Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange has confirmed they have suffered genetic damage – and found that their children and grandchildren may experience the same fate.
The Massey University study, released yesterday, found that the sample of 24 veterans tested had damage to their DNA following exposure to the herbicide, which was sprayed by US forces to remove jungle cover and food supplies from the enemy.
The study said the results warranted a larger study of New Zealand veterans, and a study of their children.
“Some veterans who have not felt concerned for themselves will now be asking what this means for their children or grandchildren,” said Chris Mullane, of the Ex-Vietnam Services Association.
“Once you start screwing around with human DNA, who knows what the outcome will be. The main concern of veterans is not about ourselves now. It is about what happens to our children when we go.”
The Government should order the further studies “without delay”.
The research has come too late to be included in the Agent Orange Joint Working Group report, which recommends that the Government apologise and pay veterans poisoned by Agent Orange $50,000 each.
Defence Minister Phil Goff and Veterans’ Affairs Minister Rick Barker said they had not yet officially received the report.
“The Government is open to new information and analysis which gives us insight into health effects of being exposed to a toxic environment in Vietnam,” they said.
“We welcome further work which adds to our knowledge of the effects of Agent Orange and adds to the international research we are relying on.”
Agent Orange study to show significant damage
UPDATED 2.15pm Friday July 28, 2006
A report out today was expected to show that all New Zealand Vietnam War veterans exposed to the defoliant Agent Orange may have suffered genetic damage.
The Massey University study is also expected to show that the genetic damage caused by exposure to toxins in the herbicide may affect both the children and grandchildren of servicemen.
All 25 Manawatu veterans involved in the research are believed to have had genetic degeneration, some of it significant.
Veterans and their families who have battled with serious health problems and birth defects have argued for 30 years that Agent Orange has had a genetic impact upon them and their children.
Successive governments have said there was no proof the veterans had been exposed, let alone hurt.
Two years ago, a select committee confirmed that Agent Orange was sprayed on New Zealand soldiers in Vietnam.
Ex-Vietnam Servicemen’s Association spokesman Chris Mullane said the study endorsed the findings of overseas research and confirmed what they had known for decades.
It was, however, good to have a study which specifically targeted the New Zealand experience, he told National Radio.
Mr Mullane acknowledged the study was a small one and hoped the Government would now support a wider study involving more veterans and their progeny.
A research team based at Massey’s Institute of Molecular BioSciences studied what is known as “sister chromatid exchange” in cells. This test analyses the way chromosomes reproduce themselves. It looks for clastogens, which are environmental agents that cause genetic damage and can cause cancer.
A joint working group involving the Ex-Vietnam Servicemen’s Association and the Government, set up to study the health of Vietnam veterans and look at the possibility of paying compensation to those who have suffered health problems, is due to report back soon.
Veteran Affairs Minister Rick Barker has had the report since April.
Mr Mullane said he hoped the findings of the latest research would be considered by the group and would strengthen the families’ case for compensation.
The full results of the research are due to be released later today.
The Green Party said the study showed the Government should reconsider its position on paying compensation.
“This study indicates these men have suffered irreversible effects from their exposure to the defoliant during their time in Vietnam,” said health spokeswoman Sue Kedgley.
“It is time the Government acknowledged this and gave the veterans the compensation they have been seeking.”
Vietnam vets in line for Agent Orange payouts
Monday July 24, 2006
By Errol Kiong
In six months of service in Vietnam, Brian Wilson was shot at, had near misses with mines and mortar rounds, killed men and lost close friends.
Those six months also left Mr Wilson and his family battling with a lifetime of medical problems associated with his exposure to Agent Orange.
This week, Vietnam war veterans are likely to be told that their exposure to the defoliant may have damaged their DNA.
But there are signs their 35-year wait for compensation could soon be over, with a report recommending the Government apologise and compensate veterans poisoned by Agent Orange $50,000 each.
Defence Minister Phil Goff would not comment on the Agent Orange Joint Working Group report’s recommendations, but said he and Veterans Affairs Minister Rick Barker would be meeting Vietnam vets in coming weeks.
The group’s recommendations have the support of the Opposition, which is offering to work with Labour to secure an outcome.
National veteran affairs spokeswoman Judith Collins, who took the veterans’ plight to Parliament’s health select committee in 2003, says it is time for decisive action.
“It’s really important that we stop playing silly games and get onto it.”
But after a history of delays and denials, Mr Wilson and groups such as the New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans Association – which commissioned a similar Massey study – are not celebrating yet.
Mr Wilson applied, for five “long and bitter” years, for a war disablement pension. Despite frequent setbacks, he now has had officially recognised 11 psychological and physical illnesses and injuries, for which he is paid $333 a fortnight in his pension.
He is angry over the lack of action. Veterans were dying at a rate of about four a month, he said, and the rate was accelerating.
Prompted by the lack of justice, in 2001 the veterans’ association commissioned Massey’s Dr Al Rowland, one of the world’s top molecular geneticists, to see if exposure to nuclear radiation had caused genetic damage.
The research found a small but significant amount of genetic damage in veterans exposed to nuclear radiation during Operation Grapple, which took place between 1957 and 1958 at the Christmas Malden islands in Kiribati.
The British legal firm Rosenblatt is using the research in a 1 billion ($3 billion) claim against the British Government.
“It’s something we can’t really rely on, and never have. Even if it does come to pass, the compensation may not be fairly available to all those who have been affected,” said association chairman Roy Sefton.
That report and a psychological impact study, which found the veterans suffered more depression, and had poorer perceived health and memory, have languished with ministry officials, he said.
He wanted the Government to acknowledge the ongoing effects of radiation exposure, and reduce the red tape surrounding war pensions.
“We’re not asking a hell of a lot.”
Of the 550 New Zealand Navy personnel who took part in Operation Grapple, only 160 are still alive.
Report may show DNA damage in Vietnam vets
Sunday July 23, 2006
A report to be released this week is expected to say that Vietnam war veterans exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides might have damaged their DNA.
The Sunday-Star Times reported today that the report has researched the DNA of 25 Vietnam veterans and is expected to conclude that the veterans have suffered long-term genetic damage as a result of their exposure to environmental toxins in the war.
A research team based at the Institute of Molecular BioSciences at Massey University in Palmerston North studied what is known as “sister chromatid exchange” in cells. This test analyses the way chromosomes reproduce themselves. It looks for clastogens, which are environmental agents that cause genetic damage and can cause cancer, the newspaper said.
The chromosomal reproduction of the 25 veterans has been compared with a control group of 25 former servicemen who did not serve there.
Veterans and their families who have battled with serious health problems and birth defects have argued for 30 years that the defoliant Agent Orange has had a genetic impact upon them and their children.
The families hope the scientific evidence will strengthen the veterans’ case when the compensation commission considers the health impact of Agent Orange upon the servicemen.
Two years ago a select committee confirmed that Agent Orange was sprayed on New Zealand soldiers in Vietnam.