Vietnam, US begin historic Agent Orange cleanup.
US: From deformed infants to grandparents with cancer, families near Vietnam s Danang Airbase have long blamed the toxic legacy of war for their ills. Now after a decades-long wait, a historic "Agent Orange" clean-up is finally beginning.
The base was a key site in the US defoliant defoliant, any one of several chemical compounds that, when applied to plants, can alter their metabolism, causing the leaves to drop off. In agriculture defoliants are used to eliminate the leaves of a crop plant so they will not interfere with the harvesting program during the Vietnam War, and much of the 80 million litres (21 million gallons) of Agent Orange used during "Operation Ranch Hand Operation Ranch Hand was a U.S. Military operation during part of the Vietnam War, lasting from 1962 until 1971.
It involved spraying an estimated 19 million US gallons of defoliants over rural areas of South Vietnam in an attempt to deprive the Viet Cong of " was mixed, stored and loaded onto planes there.
But on Thursday, the US and Vietnam began a long-awaited joint cleanup effort at the site -- using technology which will heat the contaminated soil to temperatures high enough to break dioxin down into harmless compounds.
"During the war, when we lived right by the runway, some nights we would have to cover our mouths because of a strange smell," Danang resident Nguyen Thi Binh Nguyễn Thị Bình, nee Nguyễn Châu Sa, is a Vietnamese politician who has played an important role in political scene and history of Vietnam during and after the Vietnam War. , 78, said.
Three of Binh s five children are severely mentally and physically disabled. For years she thought this was due to sins committed in a past life, but now believes it could be due to her and her late husband s dioxin exposure.
"I heard it might be Agent Orange," she told AFP (1) (AppleTalk Filing Protocol) The file sharing protocol used in an AppleTalk network. In order for non-Apple networks to access data in an AppleShare server, their protocols must translate into the AFP language. See file sharing protocol. in her tiny house in Danang city as her adult daughters crawled around her like infants.
The defoliants were sprayed over vast swathes of jungle in South Vietnam in an attempt to flush out Viet Cong communist guerrillas by depriving them of tree cover and food.
Washington still disputes the "uncertain" link between dioxin exposure and ill health.
Nonetheless speaking at the launch ceremony for the decontamination decontamination /de·con·tam·i·na·tion/ (de?kon-tam-i-na´shun) the freeing of a person or object of some contaminating substance, e.g., war gas, radioactive material, etc.
n. operation, US Ambassador David Shear described it as a "historic milestone".
"We re cleaning up this mess," he said. "We re also committed to people in Vietnam with disabilities, regardless of cause."
The $43 million project comes as the former foes draw closer in the face of rising Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea.
The Danang Airbase is one of three "dioxin hotspots" singled out by multiple recent studies where concentrations of extremely toxic contaminants from Agent Orange are nearly 400 times the globally accepted maximum standard.
Until five years ago, when the area was finally sealed off, residents such as Binh fished, bathed and harvested lotus plants from the Sen Lake -- and ate local fish with more than three times the safe level of dioxin.
As a result, victims groups say, rates of cancer, birth deformities and other dioxin-related diseases are higher than the national average in the area -- and the health threat lingers.
"In hotspots like Danang Airbase we are still finding very young people who are affected by (Agent Orange related) diseases," said Nguyen Van Rinh, chairman of the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA VAVA Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange
VAVA Voice Authentication Value-Add
VAVA Virtual Audio-Video Archive
VAVA Vaaran Vaeltajien (Finnish) ).
"The government doesn t have the capacity to move them out of contaminated areas," the 71-year-old retired general said.
Hanoi says up to three million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, and that one million suffer serious health consequences today, including at least 150,000 children born with birth defects.
An attempt by Vietnamese victims to obtain compensation from the United States had little success, and the US Supreme Court in 2009 declined to take up the case.
American veterans have received billions of dollars for diseases linked to Agent Orange but neither the US government nor the chemical manufacturers ever admitted liability.
In Vietnam, the link between exposure and diseases is "uncertain", US Embassy spokesman Christopher Hodges said.
Since 1989 Washington has given $54 million to help Vietnamese with disabilities "regardless of cause," and some $20 million has been set aside for the Danang clean-up and disability projects in 2012, he said.
For the victims, the decontamination project is long overdue.
"I think that this clean-up is too late because so many people have already been affected" by dioxin, said Nguyen Thi Hien, who heads VAVA in Danang.
The eventual price tag for cleaning all the country s hotspots and supporting victims could run to $450 million, according to some estimates.
Nguyen Thi Luu, 38, has lived by the Danang Airbase for 13 years. Her
daughter, now 11, was born severely mentally disabled with disfiguring facial deformities.
"The doctors told me she was just born like this," she told AFP. "I don t understand. With a child like this, life is very hard."
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