The Multinational Monitor


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Dow Accused in House Cubcommittee Report on Agent Orange

An unpublished report of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations charges that Dow Chemical Co. failed to warn the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) of health hazards of the herbicide Agent Orange, and that the DOD may, have virtually ignored even those hazards it was aware of in its decision to use Agent Orange extensively during the Vietnam war.

The report helps substantiate claims by veterans' groups that the defoliant has caused health problems ranging from skin conditions to stomach cancer.

The draft report states that "the DOD failed to test Agent Orange for potential to cause adverse health effects, . . . took no precautions to prevent exposure of servicemen, ...continued to use Agent Orange widely despite a White House directive to phase out defoliation operations, and ...may have been aware of the toxicity of Agent Orange prior to the decision to use it extensively in Vietnam."

A staff member who worked on the report said the draft "was completed with the understanding that the report would be approved (by the subcommittee) ... and that it would be dealt with in this session-before the end of the year.

The report was prepared by the staff as it was comprised during the Carter adminstration, and was based on the subcommittee hearings on. Agent Orange which took place last fall.

However, the staffer said, upon reading the report some new members of the 17-member subcommittee "thought the report was somewhat biased" in favor of the veterans and oppose its release as written.

Phil Schneider, a spokesperson for Dow Chemical Co., said the allegations made in the report "are completely erroneous."

"We didn't fail to report anything," he said. "The military was well aware of the potential results (of Agent Orange),"

In a related development, a U.S. Senate vote in mid-June approved federally funded medical treatment for Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. Similar legislation was passed two weeks before in the House.

The bill requires the U.S. Veteran's Administration to "adjust, the manner" in which its health care resources are used; Agent Orange victims are to be given priority in V.A. facilities "ahead of those whose medical problems have no link whatsoever to their military service," said Alan Cranston (D-California), who sponsored the bill in the Senate.

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