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Agent Orange in Australia


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Article in today's Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/may/19/australia

Claims by a leading researcher that cancer deaths in a small town in Queensland, Australia, are 10 times higher than the state average owing to the secret testing of Agent Orange there more than 40 years ago are to be investigated by the authorities.

Australian military scientists sprayed the toxic herbicide on rainforest near Innisfail during defoliant testing in the early years of the Vietnam war, it is alleged. The jungle began dying and has never recovered, according to local people.

The site is near a river which supplies water for the town in the far north of the country and researchers believe the spraying may be responsible for cancer rates in the area being 10 times the state average and four times the national average.

The Innisfail claims were made by the researcher Jean Williams, who has been awarded the Order of Australia medal for her work on the effects of chemicals on Vietnam war veterans. She said she found reports of the secret tests in Australian War Memorial museum archives.

"These tests carried out between 1964 and 1966 were the first tests of Agent Orange," she told Fairfax Media.

Williams said one of the files on the testing was marked "considered sensitive" and showed that the chemicals 2,4-D, Diquat, Tordon and dimethylsulphoxide had been sprayed on the rainforest.

"It was considered sensitive because they were mixing together all the bad chemicals, which just made them worse," she said. "Those chemicals stay in the soil for years and every time there is a storm they are stirred up and go into the water supply."

Williams also claimed that a file which could prove that wider testing took place had gone missing from the archives.

A former soldier, Ted Bosworth, has backed up the claims, saying two scientists he drove to the site in the 1960s were interested in the effect the chemical cocktail had on rubber vine, which is also found in Vietnam.

"They sprayed the trees by hand and then in the next couple of weeks I took them back up and they put ladders up against the trees and took photos of them as the foliage was dying," he said. "They called it some other funny name - I hadn't heard of Agent Orange then."

Agent Orange was sprayed by the Australian and the US military during the Vietnam war to defoliate jungle where North Vietnamese troops were positioned. The cocktail of toxic chemicals in Agent Orange has been linked to cancer, birth defects and other health problems.

Yesterday the local mayor, Bill Shannon, called on the Australian Defence Force to investigate Williams's claims. He said the half-acre site remains deforested, and though the town's water supply showed no evidence of the chemicals, local people had long been concerned about cancer rates in the area. "I'd like to know exactly what did happen and the extent of it. We don't want a cover-up," he said.

Queensland's premier, Anna Blyth, said she was disturbed by the claims. "Any concerns these residents have can and will be investigated thoroughly," she said in Brisbane yesterday.

However, the Queensland health department said that the incidence of cancer in Innisfail is no higher than in other parts of the state

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North Queensland was the site of a number of chemical tests during WWII. The test subjects were all Australian Army volunteers, who knew what would happen, but they never got any compensation for their sacrifices - which I find wrong. They were subjected to blister agents, and then asked to perform activities including obstacle courses. The tests were designed to trial protective salves / anti-blister cremes, and to see how long the men could be 'effective' if attacked.

There was also an island in Queensland, North Brook Island, where mustard gas was also tested during WWII.

I didn't know about Innisfail; I often went swimming in the area when I was based in Cairns. The government will have to be prepared for a big compo payout if the cancer rates are indeed higher than normal; Agent Orange in the area is bound to be the culprit. The area was mainly used for banana and sugar cane farming. I can't remember any type of industry in the area that might possibly been to blame.

Edited by Evan Burton
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Guest David Guyatt
North Queensland was the site of a number of chemical tests during WWII. The test subjects were all Australian Army volunteers, who knew what would happen, but they never got any compensation for their sacrifices - which I find wrong. They were subjected to blister agents, and then asked to perform activities including obstacle courses. The tests were designed to trial protective salves / anti-blister cremes, and to see how long the men could be 'effective' if attacked.

I don't know the specifics of these particular chemical warfare tests, but I do know that in many of the US and UK CW experiments, informed consent was limited - to say the least. Also, in some experiments, it was impossible for individuals to give informed consent because they didn't know what they were consenting to, and frequently the scientists themselves didn't know all the possible consequences of the experiments.

The way various militaries have treated soldiers as human guinea pigs for decades is a disgrace. Ronald Maddison's fate is a case in point. He thought he was testing a "cure for the common cold". Instead he was given a lethal dose of Sarin. The UK MoD lied about it for decades:

Nerve gas death was 'unlawful'

The inquest into a young airman who died 51 years ago during secret nerve gas tests has ruled that he was unlawfully killed.

Ronald Maddison, 20, from County Durham, died after being exposed to sarin at Porton Down in Wiltshire.

The original inquest in 1953 ruled that Leading Aircraftman Maddison's death was caused by misadventure.

In 2002, the High Court quashed that verdict and ordered that a new inquest should be held.

After hearing 64 days of evidence, the jury concluded that the cause of Mr Maddison's death was "application of a nerve agent in a non-therapeutic experiment".

An MoD spokesman said: "The Ministry of Defence notes the jury's findings and will now take some time to reflect on these.

"We will be seeking legal advice on whether we wish to consider a judicial review.

"We don't believe the verdict today has implications for other volunteers. However, we will consider the implications."

The original inquest was held behind closed doors "for reasons of national security".

Volunteer Terry Alderson, 74, said outside the court: "It was Russian Roulette, Ronald Maddison was just the first.

"Reading between the lines they have got away with murder - our health was never monitored afterwards and nobody knows how many died.

'Cold research'

"This shows what liars (the MoD) were - nobody volunteered for these tests. We were sent in there like sheep."

Family lawyer Alan Care said: "We would now join with the Porton Down veterans in calling for a public inquiry."

Mr Maddison's family claimed he was tricked into taking part in the tests, and was told he was helping to find a cure for the common cold.

Mr Maddison was exposed to 200 milligrammes of sarin which was dropped on to a piece of uniform material wrapped around his arm.

The second inquiry was prompted after ex-serviceman Gordon Bell complained to Wiltshire Police that he had been duped into similar tests.

The constabulary launched Operation Antler which looked at experiments using chemical and biological agents at Porton Down government research centre between 1939 and 1989.

The operation found that the coroner at the original inquest was "not apparently provided with all the potentially available material".

The outcome could lead to legal action by veterans of Porton Down who claim they were duped into taking part in similar dangerous trials.

The hearing, at Trowbridge Magistrates' Court, lasted six months.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/wiltshire/4013767.stm

Absolutely disgusting. Especially when one considers the UK had access to nazi scientists and would've known this was a death sentence. It is not enough to make a payout to relatives (the usual remedy these days). Those who ordered this should be tracked down and prosecuted for murder.

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The story, good as it is for getting the boil boiling in righteous anger - is a beat up. The only true part is that a chemical (or chemical cocktail) was tested near Innisfail at a site 30 metres by 10 metres.

The 2005 cancer rates in the area are within 0.10% of the state average - statistically insignificant. The so-called research on this amounted to reading a book on Agent Orange written over 20 years ago and misreading .10 as 10.

Birth defect rates in the area might be more telling - but until someone looks into that - the good folk of Innisfail have been needlessly put through a scare.

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The story, good as it is for getting the boil boiling in righteous anger - is a beat up. The only true part is that a chemical (or chemical cocktail) was tested near Innisfail at a site 30 metres by 10 metres.

The 2005 cancer rates in the area are within 0.10% of the state average - statistically insignificant. The so-called research on this amounted to reading a book on Agent Orange written over 20 years ago and misreading .10 as 10.

Birth defect rates in the area might be more telling - but until someone looks into that - the good folk of Innisfail have been needlessly put through a scare.

On the other hand....the factory where the Agent Orange (amongst other chemicals) was manufactured here in Sydney (formerly Union Carbide factory in Rhodes) is presently being remediated http://esvc000080.wic019u.server-web.com//index.php?q=node/1. It has been several years now and will be several more by the look of it. Then they plan to build residences there where families will be raised and children play (but not mine) It is costing at least 100 million AU$ to do this but they will spend this because exorbitant real estate prices in Sydney mean that they will still be able to turn a tidy profit once they make it look like Hong Kong (it is a Meriton property now after all) as they have in other places around Sydney. Especially harbour foreshore like this site. The waste from the Union Carbide factory was used to extend the forshore. Professional fishermen have been banned from fishing in Sydney Harbour for a few years now. All of these fishermen and their families show signs of various toxic chemicals in their bodies at way too high a level. No fish are to be eaten from Sydney harbour. Fish and seafood in Sydney is one situation where you don't buy local.

It may be cleaner than clean after the remediation. In the mean time all the sediment is getting stirred up and there is pollution pouring from the smokestack every day. The stench as one drives near by is really awful, even with the windows up and the air con on recirculated air. I can't imagine how anyone possibly lives there but there are plenty of units right there nearby and they are not cheap either.

Naturally, this is paid for by tax dollars not by Union Carbide or Meriton (owned by one of Australia's wealthiest billionaires) and the public health system picks up the tab for all the poisoned fishermen and their families and others who have been polluted systemically.

THE LEGACY OF AGENT ORANGE

- CLEAN UP HOMEBUSH BAY

"In June 1997 Greenpeace investigations revealed an orphaned stockpile of thirty six, 200 litre drums and fifteen, 50 litre drums of highly dioxin contaminated waste next to Homebush Bay and the site of the Sydney 2000, Summer Olympic Games.

Chlorinated chemicals were manufactured at the Union Carbide Australia Limited (UCAL) site at Walker Street Rhodes for almost 60 years, beginning with the original owners, Timbrol Limited, who made wood preservatives (1949-1957) and followed by Union Carbide Australia Pty Ltd (1957-1976) who made chlorinated pesticides including 2,4,5-T a constituent of the infamous Agent Orange used in the Vietnam war.

Between 1949-1971 between 4 and 30 kg of dioxin dispersed in perhaps 200 to 300 tonnes of wastes from Timbrol Ltd and later, Carbide Australia Pty Ltd, were disposed of in landfills and covered over with earth at tips at Homebush Bay, Concord and Menai. The exact location within each tip is difficult to ascertain and it was assumed by the NSW State Pollution Control Commission in 1986 that the dioxin contaminated waste could have been deposited in any part of each site.

On-site investigations by Greenpeace in February 1997, over ten years since description of storage arrangements outlined by the SPCC, found thirty six, 200 litre drums marked 'dioxin contaminated waste' and 'flotation tails sludge'. Included in this stockpile were also fifteen 50 litre drums and around a dozen assorted small sealed plastic buckets and containers. The stockpile was discovered next to the old UCAL site sitting on the ground behind a rudimentary fence. Samples of the contents of the drums were taken and sent to the Institute of Environmental Science & Research Limited (ESR) in New Zealand.

Results of samples from the stockpile were alarming. The analysis found that the waste was very highly contaminated with dioxin. It contained 108000 pg/g ITEQ (108 ng/g) of dioxin dry weight. The waste also contained high levels (98100 pg/g) of 2,3,7,8 TCDD dry weight (98.1 ng/g) which is consistent with residues and wastes from pesticide 2,4,5- T manufactured by Union Carbide Australia Limited up until the late 1970's.

Greenpeace sampling of fish from Homebush Bay found high levels of dioxin in the food chain. Two Sea Mullet were found to have equivalent to 252 - 345 picograms per gram (ITEQ pg/g) of the most toxic form of dioxin 2378 TCDD. 10 - 15 times higher than US EPA and Canadian standards for concentrations in edible fish and 20-30 times environmental standards.

Earlier studies of Homebush Bay highlighted the extent of the contamination and a fishing ban is in place. Sediment sampling carried out between 1987 and 1990 found surface sediments from 101 sediment analyses from Homebush bay to have a mean of 3.16 ng/g TCDD wet weight. Sub-surface sediments were found to contain over 550 ng/g I-TEQ of dioxin.

The samples of fish from Homebush bay were over three hundred of times higher than levels reported in fish fillets from Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne and are the highest recorded dioxin contaminated fish in Australia and potentially one of the most contaminated in the world. Both fish samples had high levels of 2378 TCDD (170 pg/g - 326 pg/g, Mean 248 pg/g) the most toxic form of dioxin which is consistent with residues from chlorinated pesticides (2,4,5-T) production and contamination around the Olympic site.

Since the Greenpeace action in June 1997, the NSW government committed $ 21 million (AUS) for the remediation of Homebush Bay. Unfortunately, a year later the timeline has slipped and by its own reckoning the NSW Governments plans to decontaminate Homebush Bay are at least 6 months behind schedule. While there has been a lot of promises to clean up the toxic mess at Homebush Bay, it is unclear when and how the very high levels of dioxin contamination. What ever happens, the lesson of Homebush Bay is an important one - avoidance of dioxin is better and far cheaper than trying to clean up the waste at a later date."

With thanks to Greenpeace. See http://www.greenpeace.org.au/info/archives...dioxin/NSW.html

Edited by Maggie Hansen
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On the other hand....the factory where the Agent Orange (amongst other chemicals) was manufactured here in Sydney (formerly Union Carbide factory in Rhodes) is presently being remediated http://esvc000080.wic019u.server-web.com//index.php?q=node/1. It has been several years now and will be several more by the look of it. Then they plan to build residences there where families will be raised and children play (but not mine) It is costing at least 100 million AU$ to do this but they will spend this because exorbitant real estate prices in Sydney mean that they will still be able to turn a tidy profit once they make it look like Hong Kong (it is a Meriton property now after all) as they have in other places around Sydney. Especially harbour foreshore like this site. The waste from the Union Carbide factory was used to extend the forshore. Professional fishermen have been banned from fishing in Sydney Harbour for a few years now. All of these fishermen and their families show signs of various toxic chemicals in their bodies at way too high a level. No fish are to be eaten from Sydney harbour. Fish and seafood in Sydney is one situation where you don't buy local.

It may be cleaner than clean after the remediation. In the mean time all the sediment is getting stirred up and there is pollution pouring from the smokestack every day. The stench as one drives near by is really awful, even with the windows up and the air con on recirculated air. I can't imagine how anyone possibly lives there but there are plenty of units right there nearby and they are not cheap either.

Naturally, this is paid for by tax dollars not by Union Carbide or Meriton (owned by one of Australia's wealthiest billionaires) and the public health system picks up the tab for all the poisoned fishermen and their families and others who have been polluted systemically.

Thanks Maggie,

It's not actually being paid for out of tax revenue. There's been a trade off. Developers will be able to double the density in return for footing the clean up bill.

The problems with the project include lack of facilities in the area (e.g. schools and parks), and the method which will be used to remove dioxins. This method was developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency - and if that isn't reason enough for concern, the method, known as thermal desorption, has never been used anywhere else to remediate land for housing.

Green groups are all for the remediation of the sites. It's the effectiveness of the clean-up and the trade-off for housing development that they are rightly concerned about.

I'm thoroughly disenchanted with Labor at both state and federal levels. The sites should be cleaned up as an end in itself - not for developers to turn a profit - and not at taxpayers expense. Union Carbide should foot the bill.

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  • 2 weeks later...

http://news.smh.com.au/national/agent-oran...80609-2nsi.html

Agent Orange was not tested in the north Queensland town of Innisfail during the Vietnam War, the Defence department says.

Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon was asked last month to investigate claims the defoliant was tested in 1966 after a researcher allegedly found details of the tests in Australian War Memorial archives.

The Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) has now investigated "claims in recent media reports" about the use of Agent Orange by Defence scientists in Innisfail and found them to be false.

"DSTO's search of archived reports shows that no trials have been carried out by Defence scientists in the Innisfail area using Agent Orange," a Defence spokesman said in a statement.

Defence conducted "one small-scale defoliation trial" in the Gregory Falls area near Innisfail in 1966 but it didn't involve Agent Orange.

The trial was conducted to evaluate the performance of herbicides "in regular use by the farming and forestry industries" to control the growth of tropical vegetation, Defence said.

"Small quantities of commercially available chemicals, Diquat, Tordon and Dimethyl sulfoxide were used," the Defence spokesman said.

"Contrary to media reports, the herbicide 2,4-D - a component of Agent Orange - was not used in this trial."

Reports in May suggested Agent Orange had been sprayed close to Innisfail's water supply between 1964 and 1966.

Queensland Health was forced to reject claims cancer rates in Innisfail were 10 times the Queensland average, saying calculations made by the media were incorrect.

Tropical Population Health Network director Brad McCulloch said in May a review of registry figures showed the incidence of cancer in Innisfail was the same as the rest of the state.

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