Letter: Agent Orange still takes toll on Vietnam vets and their families

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To the editor:

I am writing this letter to make readers aware of the physiological impact of Agent Orange on Vietnam veterans and their offspring 40 years later through a daughter’s perspective. I am a proud daughter of a Vietnam veteran who is undergoing treatment both psychologically and physiologically for the exposure to Agent Orange while serving his country.

Between 1961 and 1971, the United States sprayed approximately 20 million gallons of dioxin-contaminated herbicides over Vietnamese terrain; among them were compounds called Agent Orange. Hundreds of thousands of US military personnel were exposed to chemicals in the air, water and soil. In 1970, the federal government found evidence that TCDD (contaminant known to be toxic to humans) caused birth defects in laboratory mice, yet Agent Orange was used in Vietnam for another eight months.

A significant number of Vietnam veterans have children and grandchildren with birth defects and health issues related to exposure to Agent Orange. The public myst be aware of the consequences of the chemical exposure and the fact that the burdens they may impose may well be borne for generations. I am concerned that there is a correlation to my health issues and my father being exposed to Agent Orange, as well as my father’s submergence of health concerns.

The Agent Orange Act of 1991 stated that those diagnosed with certain illnesses associated with Agent Orange were eligible to receive medical services for their conditions. Fewer than half a million Vietnam veterans have undergone the Agent Orange examination. Vietnam Veterans suspect many illnesses that are associated with Agent Orange are still not considered service-related and thus aren’t eligible for services.

There needs to be more awareness of this topic and it has been suggested that veterans’ health forums be held at the chapter and state council levels and that veterans contact state officials to hear these stories for added exposure.

I urge you or a family member with exposure to Agent Orange to contact your local VA for more information at 866-363-4486. For veterans and their families struggling with unexplained illesses, disabilities and death, every needless delay uses a severe cost that can’t be repaid later.

Kerry (Tripp) Mello

Westport

Ms. Mellos is a MSW candidate at Bridgewater State University’s Department of Social Work.

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