Agent Orange, veterans’ health threat long after Vietnam war


This video says about itself:

Chilling Legacy of US Chemical Warfare in Vietnam

Agent Orange: The US herbicidal compound known as Agent Orange has scarred Vietnam

July 2004

For downloads and more information visit here.

The use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War means that for many the war never ended. They’re still suffering the effects of chemical warfare.

“I try hard to improve our life but we cannot,” sobs Mr Quy. His stomach, liver and lungs are riddled with cancer and the hospital refuses to treat him. Now he’s too weak to care for his severely handicapped children. He believes it was his exposure to Agent Orange during the war which blighted his family. His only hope is that the law suit against the US companies who manufactured Agent Orange will succeed. But many are angry that it’s taking so long to receive compensation. As the Head of the Association for Victims of Agent Orange states: “The Vietnamese people have suffered but unfortunately, the Americans have avoided their responsibility.”

By Lynne Peeples in the USA:

Agent Orange Posed A Health Threat To Servicemen Long After Vietnam: Study

02/21/2014 5:59 pm EST

Military veterans who say they were sickened by lingering amounts of the herbicide Agent Orange aboard repurposed airplanes after the Vietnam War now have some strong scientific support for their claims.

A study published on Friday refutes the U.S. Air Force and Department of Veteran Affairs’ position that any dioxin or other components of Agent Orange contaminating its fleet of C-123 cargo planes would have been “dried residues” and therefore unlikely to pose any meaningful exposure risks.

That contention has been the basis for the VA’s denial of benefits to sick veterans.

“It’s a question of science and ethics,” said Jeanne Stellman, an Agent Orange expert at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and senior author of the paper, which found standard-exceeding exposures likely occurred after the war — via skin contact, inhalation and ingestion.

“The VA has set up policy that is based on bad science,” she added. “That’s resulted in really inequitable treatment.”

Veterans who sprayed or handled Agent Orange herbicide during the war, or who spent any time on the ground in Vietnam, are automatically eligible for health care and disability compensation under federal Agent Orange legislation. The government presumes that certain conditions such as prostate cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Type 2 diabetes are a result of exposure to the chemical.

Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, told The Huffington Post that, in her opinion, the VA’s presumption should be expanded to include those who flew in the post-war planes.

“We can’t prove it, but everything in here is supportive of the fact that they were exposed and could have been quite highly exposed,” said Birnbaum. “In fact, it would be reasonable to assume that those who flew in these planes after the war were more likely to be exposed than those servicemen who had boots on the ground in Vietnam.”

Perhaps no one knows better than retired Lt. Col. John Harris the consequences of the VA’s apparently arbitrary distinction between possible pre- and post-war exposures.

When HuffPost first covered the concerns of Harris and other veterans last July, he described how the VA initially denied him Agent Orange-related benefits for his diabetes, despite his 12 years of working, eating and sleeping onboard what he refers to as “noxious” C-123s after the war. But when he later found records of a one-hour refueling stop he’d made with a fighter jet in Vietnam during the war, the VA granted his refiled claim.

While Harris is happy to have coverage, he remains frustrated for his comrades.

“I’m absolutely positive that I was exposed to Agent Orange and dioxin in that 12-year period,” he told HuffPost after hearing about the new study. “I think the VA is lying, cheating and stealing to prove a case that is unprovable.”

In a statement to the HuffPost last July, a VA spokeswoman stated that “even though residual Agent Orange may be detected in C-123 aircraft by laboratory techniques years after Agent Orange use, any residual [dioxin] in the aircraft would have solidified and be unable to enter the human body in any significant amount.”

VA spokeswoman Genevieve Billia told HuffPost in email on Friday that the agency “wants to ensure that all Veterans, including those who served on C123s, receive the benefits to which they are entitled under the law,” and that it will “continue to review new scientific information on this issue as it becomes available.”

“VA does not presume by regulation that these Veterans were exposed to Agent Orange,” said Billia.

To show that such exposures likely did happen, Stellman said, her research team had to be “very clever.”

After a decade of spraying more than 10 million gallons of Agent Orange to destroy enemy cover and crops, the C-123s underwent no testing — or decontamination, for that matter — prior to their new stateside assignments with the Air Force Reserve. Between 1971 and 1982, about 1,500 men and women served aboard 34 C-123s that were previously deployed in Operation Ranch Hand.

It wasn’t until 1979, when crews complained about chemical smells, that officials took the first measures of potential contamination. Samples of wiped surfaces in 1994, and again in 2009, supplemented this 1979 air sample data. All but three of the planes have since been smelted.

Stellman, Richard Clapp of the Boston University School of Public Health, Fred Berman of Oregon Health and Science University and Peter Lurker, an environmental engineering consultant and former U.S. Air Force researcher, used this sparse data in three different models. All resulted in estimated exposure levels that exceeded health guidelines for the contaminants.

The team noted that their findings may be extremely conservative.

The levels of toxic chemicals — measured years, even decades, after the veterans were aboard the C-123s — were likely much higher immediately after the war, researchers said. Airborne levels may also have been particularly high while the planes were airborne, due to extreme temperatures, changes in pressure and vibrations.

One of the models that researchers used, which Stellman suggested was based on a “high school chemistry” concept, demonstrated how the old herbicide could have evaporated and attached to dust particles.

“The VA, whether out of ignorance or malice, has denied the entire existence of this entire branch of science,” said Stellman. “They have this preposterous idea that somehow there is this other kind of state of matter — a dried residue that is completely inert.”

Clapp, one of the co-authors, emphasized how “exquisitely toxic” dioxin is at any dose. The chemical has been linked to a host of health effects including cancers, heart disease and diabetes.

“Exposure to even tiny quantities is not ignorable,” he said.

“We do show plausible exposure,” added Clapp. “These veterans should be compensated, too.”

Retired Maj. Wes Carter, who himself served aboard C-123s after Vietnam, has been leading the effort on behalf of this group of post-war veterans. He said he knows of only one such comrade who has received Agent Orange benefits from the VA, his close friend retired Lt. Col. Paul Bailey.

Bailey was among those struggling to secure benefits for himself and his family last July, when he was gravely ill with cancer. He died of the disease in October.

Bailey expressed his frustrations to HuffPost back in July.

“We’ve proved over and over that we’ve been exposed to dioxin, but the VA is refusing to accept the evidence,” said Bailey, who worked as an air medical technician and flight instructor aboard the C-123s. “They’re just dragging their feet.”

Weeks before Bailey’s death, the VA reversed its initial denial of his claim.

“The fact that Bailey got approved, that gives me hope,” said Harris, adding that his hope is further bolstered by the new scientific findings. “There are a lot of others out there that need this help, too.”

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Pangolin news from Vietnam


This video is called World Pangolin Day 2014.

From the EDGE Blog:

Pangolin update from Vietnam

For World Pangolin Day 2014 EDGE fellow Tran Quang Phuong has written an update on his work with Sunda pangolin in Vietnam.

The Sunda Pangolin, Manis javanica, is highly valued for its meat and scales. Across Southeast Asia individuals are caught and taken from the forest by local hunters and sold into the extensive illegal wildlife trade.

Often, it is live animals that are transported around. When local authorities uncover these shipments individuals are frequently released into the forest immediately, in poor condition and with no monitoring of their survival. These individuals are often stressed and dehydrated, reducing their chances of survival. They may also be carrying diseases that could spread to wild populations.

The Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program (CPCP) in Cuc Phuong National Park remains one of the only places in Vietnam with local conservationists who are experts in pangolin rehabilitation. With many healthy individuals in their care they have been working with employees of Cat Tien National Park Forestry Protection Department (FPD) releasing these animals and monitoring their survival using VHF radio telemetry.

From this work guidelines will be developed that can be implemented by the FPD for the conservation management of this species to encourage: the release of individuals in good condition; post release monitoring of individuals; and the management of releases in a way that will have a positive impact on the population in the park (i.e. establishing a viable population).

So far FPD Rangers have been involved in basic care for injured pangolins, attaching a transmitter, and tracking animals after release. They have also been involved in dealing with any animal mortalities, which is notoriously high after confiscation. Although upsetting, it helps highlight the importance of doing things properly and acts as a reminder of just how difficult this species is to care for.

By monitoring individuals after release we can evaluate what contributes to the success or failure of a release. By tracking their survival, home range size and shape and sleep site selection we can begin to build up an idea of what factors are important to consider in a release program for this species.

Out for four individuals released, two were still alive after three months, unfortunately the fate of the other two was only followed for two weeks (until the transmitter fell off). However, we have found that these released individuals select sleeping sites in tree hollows, either in the trunk or at the roots, or inside hollow logs. It also takes approximately two weeks of exploratory behaviour before they establish a stable home range, which is a good indication they are able to find adequate resources.

We have also been trying to release individuals in locations where male and female home ranges may overlap. We had some (lucky) success with this when a released female was found in the same tree as a wild male! It also provided an opportunity to then tag and track a wild male. From this we found that although the home ranges of our released individuals were stable, they were small. These individuals had been in captivity for three years so it would be interesting to monitor the behaviour of those released as soon as their rehabilitation was complete to see what size home range they establish. Ideally, this is something that will be carried on by the FPD staff.

In order to develop release programs further, information needs to be gathered from a wild population. Once we have an idea of what a wild population looks like in terms of distribution, abundance and genetic make-up it can be used as a reference for release programs.

As with many species, a priority for the Sunda Pangolin is a decrease in hunting pressure. As this involves a long term attitudinal change, reinforcing depleted populations in areas that are well protected is a proactive and imperative move for this species.

Cambodia: I was so busy watching the pangolin happily slurp up dead ants that it took me a few minutes to realize it was missing one of its back legs. I was at the Pangolin Rehabilitation Center outside of Phnom Penh, which CI helped open in 2012 to provide a temporary home for “scaly anteaters” like this one that was rescued from the illegal wildlife trade: here.

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Spoon-billed sandpipers in Vietnam


This video says about itself:

Spoon-billed Sandpiper: Courtship

Within days of arriving on the breeding grounds, Spoon-billed Sandpiper courtship begins. Males perform display flights over favored areas to attract females and establish territories and females select a mate. Once together, a pair becomes inseparable. They forage within earshot of each other, copulate frequently, and prospect for potential locations to nest. This video, shot during the first few days of a pair’s seasonal courtship, captures some of these rarely witnessed behaviors including an attempted copulation and a nest scrape display.

Video includes commentary by The Cornell Lab’s Gerrit Vyn.

Filmed June 6, 2011 near Meinypilgyno, Chukotka, Russia.

From Birders Traveling – Du lịch và Xem chim in Vietnam:

Friday, January 3, 2014

Spoon-billed Sandpiper survey in Mekong Delta 2013

Nguyen Hoai Bao 1 , Nguyen Hao Quang 2 , Tran Duc Thien 1

1 University of Science, Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh city

2 Wildtour Co., LTD

Acknowledgement

We would like to take this opportunity to thank to RSPB who has sponsored our travelling expense for this survey. Especially thank to Hoang Thanh Ha from Viet Nature, she has worked very hard to make connections among us. We also would like to thank to Wildtour Co., LTD has supported their staff to arrange logistics and carry out survey.

1. Introduction

Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus) is a critically endangered species (IUCN redlist 2013). It’s breeding in Russia and wintering down the western Pacific coast through Russia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, mainland China, Hong Kong (China), Taiwan (China) and South-east Asia including Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

Mekong Delta is one of key remaining SbS wintering sites. The survey done by Birds Russia collaborated with University of Science in Ho Chi Minh city in 2011 had recorded up to 8 or at least 5 birds (Vladimir et al., 2012). In additional, by personal observations, there was 1 record in Can Gio area in end of April, 2010 (Nguyen Hoai Bao) and 1 record also in Can Gio in October 2010 (Jonathan Eames, personal communication). An older survey in 2000 by Moores, N. and Nguyen Phuc Bao Hoa has recorded up to 5 individuals in Ba Tri area.

This one-week survey therefore could be a desirable data to support mornitoring SbS as well as waders population wintering in Mekong delta, especially at the IBAs along the coast in southern Vietnam.

2. Sites selection

Following survey in 2012, we chose potential sites for SbS at districts Can Gio (Ho Chi Minh city), Go Cong (Tien Giang province), Binh Dai, Ba Tri and Thanh Phu (Ben Tre province), see figure 1.

Image 1. Surveyed sites

3. Survey itinerary

December 16, 2013. Traveling to Can Gio, survey at Can Thanh area, roost sites. Travel to Go Cong in the afternoon.
December 17, 2013. Survey at Tan Thanh beach, clam farms
December 18, 2013. Survey at Con Ngang (Ngang island). Travel to Binh Dai.
December 19. Survey at Binh Dai, travel to Ba Tri
Dec 20. Survey at Ba Tri, travel to Thanh Phu
December 21. Survey at Thanh Phu
December 22, 2013. Travel to Sai Gon, finishing survey.

4. Findings (Outputs)
During survey, at least 3 Spoon-billed Sandpipers were recorded, up to five birds were observed. We also counted or estimated other waders occurs at surveing sites (table 1).

Can Gio (December 16, 12:30-16:30)
GPS information: site 1 – 10.399388°/106.944365°; site 2 – 10.399776°/106.925338°; site 3 – 10.394532°/106.927869°.

Can Gio is one of the most important sites for shorebirds during wintering time. There are thousands of birds using both muddy beach as feeding habitats and mangroves as roosting spot. The salt-pans along the coastal areas are also feeding habitats for them during high tide. The survey in 2011 indicated that the beach is a sandflat which is too hard for SbS, the two observations were at roost sites.

Therefore we only observed at roost sites (figure 2), the most abundance including Great Knot, Lesser Sand Plover, Pacific Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit.

This site is situated at the outer of Mekong river (Song Tien), the most important for Spoon-billed Sandpiper in Mekong delta, Vietnam. Recently sightings proved that SbS using muddy beach, clam farms for feeding during winter. It occurs here beginning in mid November to mid April (Wildtour’s team observed 2011-2013).

Beside three to five individuals of SbS were sighted, we also found that so many Red-necked Stints, Broad-billed Sandpipers and other waders feeding at this site.

Con Ngang, Go Cong (December 18, 06:00-11:30)
GPS information: 10.224844°/106.792337°

Although three SbSs were seen at this site in 2011, we did not any at this time. The habitat at 2011-sighting spot seem to be changed after two years, soil is less mud and harder than before. However, this island is very important roosting site for those birds in Tan Thanh and Binh Dai. When tide was coming up, we saw thousands waders flew in which were estimated 700 Pacific Golden Plovers, 1000 Great Knots, 200-250 Bar-tailed Godwits, 100 Far Eastern Curlews, 300 Caspian Terns.

Thoi Thuan, Binh Dai (December 19, 08:00-10:00)
GPS information: 10.040256°/106.711518°

We couldn’t access clam farms in Thoi Thuan as it belongs to a private company and it is also a restricted frontier area, the local authorities required us special permit to enter their area. Therefore, we were only able to survey at some salt-pans and shrimp ponds nearby, not many species were observed, Marsh Sandpiper (100+), Common Greenshank (29), Common Redshank (11), Golden Plover (24), Caspian Tern (2). None wader-birds including Little Egret (32), Yellow-vented Bulbul, Olive-backed Sunbird, Plain Prinia, Collared Kingfisher.

An Thuy, Ba Tri (December 20, 09:30-13:30)
GPS information: 9.980347°/ 106.658725°

This is an IBA (code VN 063) classified by Birdlife International. The beach is using as clam farms, ground is sandy and quite hard for SbS, we thought. This is considered as impact from less sediment due to hydropower dams along Mekong river and especially Ba Lai drain and dykes were built along coastal in this area (?). We spent 4 hours checking around, birds encountered were Golden Plover (150), Far Eastern Curlew (30), Common Greenshank (45), Bar-tailed Godwit (60), Red-necked Stint (230), Sanderling (56), Terek Sandpiper (37), Lesser Sand Plover (250), Kentish Plover (70).

In the end, we birded at the mangroves and found our first near-threatened Black-tailed Godwit (1), Little Egret (7), Great Egret (12), Intermediate Egret (6), Great Heron (1), Little Heron (1), Common sandpiper (2), Blue-tailed Bee-eater (3), Common Myna (2), Pied Fantail (5), Golden-bellied Gerygone (4).

Thanh Hai, Thanh Phu (December 21, 09:00-13:00)
GPS information: 9.865881°/ 106.686575°

Our final survey was at Thanh Phu district, this is a new site as we did not survey in 2011. By looking on google maps, we found a good mudflat by outer of Ham Luong river. However, there were no SbS there nor many shorebirds observed. Thanh Phu was proposed for a natural reserve area but wasn’t designated, all mangroves surround was cut down for shrimp and crab farms.

5. Threats

We saw no direct threat to Spoon-billed Sandpiper as well as other shorebirds, there was no hunting or trapping. However, habitats lost probably the main issue. The roosting sites along coastal areas in Ben Tre province have changed to aquaculture might impact waders population. The less sediment might also be considered as a threat to SbS feeding habitats.

6. Recommendations

1) Again, as we recommended after survey in 2011, International and local organizations on birds protection should address to responsible governmental agencies in Vietnam with request on creation of protected territories at wintering grounds and staging areas of Spoon-billed Sandpiper and huge concentration of waterbirds (mudflats at Tan Thanh village, Ngang Island). The first step in this direction could be declaration of these territories as IBA. A reserve area should be assigned to protect and sustainable using SbS feeding habitats.

2) Yearly monitoring or survey to understand waders population at these areas

3) Conduct survey in the areas further south such as Tra Vinh, Soc Trang and Bac Lieu province which are not been done before.

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Rare Vietnamese mammal seen


This video from Vietnam is called Working Together to Save the Saola.

From AAP news agency:

13 Nov 2013 – 2:00pm

Rare mammal sighted in Vietnam

Conservationists are excited by the sighting of one of the rarest mammals on earth which has been photographed in Vietnam for the first time in 15 years.

An international conservation group says one of the rarest and most threatened mammals on earth has been caught on camera in Vietnam for the first time in 15 years, renewing hope for the recovery of the spices [sic; species].

The Saola, a long-horned ox, was photographed by a camera in a forest in central Vietnam in September, the WWF said in a statement on Wednesday.

The animal was discovered in the remote areas of high mountains near the border with Laos in 1992 and proved to be the first large mammal new to science in more than 50 years and one of the only seven types of large mammal to be discovered in 20th century.

In Vietnam, the last sighting of a Saola in the wild was in 1998.

In the area where the Saola was photographed, WWF has recruited forest guards from local communities to remove snares and battle illegal hunting, the greatest threat to Saola’s survival, the statement said.

The snares were set to largely catch other animals, such as deer and civets, which are a delicacy in Vietnam.

Twenty years after its discovery, little is known about Saola and the difficulty in detecting the elusive animal has prevented scientists from making a precise population estimate.

At best, no more than few hundreds, and maybe only a few dozen, survive the remote, dense forests along the border with Laos, WWF said.