[House Hearing, 111 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
AGENT ORANGE IN VIETNAM: RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN REMEDIATION
SUBCOMMITTEE ON ASIA, THE PACIFIC AND
THE GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED ELEVENTH CONGRESS
JULY 15, 2010
Serial No. 111-125
Printed for the use of the Committee on Foreign Affairs
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COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California, Chairman
GARY L. ACKERMAN, New York ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey
Samoa DAN BURTON, Indiana
DONALD M. PAYNE, New Jersey ELTON GALLEGLY, California
BRAD SHERMAN, California DANA ROHRABACHER, California
ELIOT L. ENGEL, New York DONALD A. MANZULLO, Illinois
BILL DELAHUNT, Massachusetts EDWARD R. ROYCE, California
GREGORY W. MEEKS, New York RON PAUL, Texas
DIANE E. WATSON, California JEFF FLAKE, Arizona
RUSS CARNAHAN, Missouri MIKE PENCE, Indiana
ALBIO SIRES, New Jersey JOE WILSON, South Carolina
GERALD E. CONNOLLY, Virginia JOHN BOOZMAN, Arkansas
MICHAEL E. McMAHON, New York J. GRESHAM BARRETT, South Carolina
THEODORE E. DEUTCH, CONNIE MACK, Florida
FloridaAs of 5/6/ JEFF FORTENBERRY, Nebraska
10 deg. MICHAEL T. McCAUL, Texas
JOHN S. TANNER, Tennessee TED POE, Texas
GENE GREEN, Texas BOB INGLIS, South Carolina
LYNN WOOLSEY, California GUS BILIRAKIS, Florida
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
BARBARA LEE, California
SHELLEY BERKLEY, Nevada
JOSEPH CROWLEY, New York
MIKE ROSS, Arkansas
BRAD MILLER, North Carolina
DAVID SCOTT, Georgia
JIM COSTA, California
KEITH ELLISON, Minnesota
GABRIELLE GIFFORDS, Arizona
RON KLEIN, Florida
Richard J. Kessler, Staff Director
Yleem Poblete, Republican Staff Director
Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American Samoa, Chairman
GARY L. ACKERMAN, New York DONALD A. MANZULLO, Illinois
DIANE E. WATSON, California BOB INGLIS, South Carolina
MIKE ROSS, Arkansas DANA ROHRABACHER, California
BRAD SHERMAN, California EDWARD R. ROYCE, California
ELIOT L. ENGEL, New York JEFF FLAKE, Arizona
GREGORY W. MEEKS, New York
C O N T E N T S
Mr. Matthew Palmer, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of
East Asian and Pacific Affairs, U.S. Department of State....... 8
John Wilson, Ph.D., Director, Office of Technical Support,
Bureaus for Asia and the Middle East, U.S. Agency for
International Development...................................... 16
Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong, M.D., Director General, Ngoc Tam
Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (Former Vice Speaker of the
Vietnam National Assembly; presently Member of the U.S.-Vietnam
Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin)......................... 39
Ms. Tran Thi Hoan, Agent Orange Victim........................... 46
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
The Honorable Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, a Representative in Congress
from American Samoa, and Chairman, Subcommittee on Asia, the
Pacific and the Global Environment: Prepared statement......... 6
Mr. Matthew Palmer: Prepared statement........................... 12
John Wilson, Ph.D.: Prepared statement........................... 18
The Honorable Diane E. Watson, a Representative in Congress from
the State of California: Prepared statement.................... 38
Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong, M.D.: Prepared statement................. 42
Ms. Tran Thi Hoan: Prepared statement............................ 49
Hearing notice................................................... 60
Hearing minutes.................................................. 61
The Honorable Eni F.H. Faleomavaega: Material submitted for the
AGENT ORANGE IN VIETNAM: RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN REMEDIATION
THURSDAY, JULY 15, 2010
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific
and the Global Environment,
Committee on Foreign Affairs,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 2:15 p.m., in
room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Eni F.H.
Faleomavaega (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. Faleomavaega. The subcommittee hearing will come to
This is a hearing of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on
Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment. A theme of
today's hearing that will be brought forth by our witnesses
concerns the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam and recent
developments in remediation.
I want to offer my apologies to our witnesses for being a
little late because of the votes that have just been completed
in the House. I hope you are not being misled by the fact that
I am the only member here because this is the nature of the
work here. Members go in and out because of other commitments
and other meetings, but I am sure that some of our colleagues
will be coming in quite soon.
So what I will do is begin the hearing by giving my opening
statement, and we will then turn to our witnesses who are now
Last night, we celebrated 15 years of U.S.-Vietnam
diplomatic relations, and I joined former President Bill
Clinton, Senator John Kerry, and Senator John McCain in
offering remarks at an event hosted by His Excellency, the
Ambassador of Vietnam Le Cong Phung and his dear wife, as well
as Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, and the State
Department as they co-hosted the special event that took place
last night. While this is a hallmark moment in U.S.-Vietnam
relations, true normalization will not be achieved, in my
humble opinion, until the Agent Orange issue has been
Between 1961 and 1971, the U.S. military sprayed an
estimated 11-12 million gallons of Agent Orange chemical
substance over approximately 10 percent of Vietnam. Some 30
years later we have not cleaned up the mess that we have left
behind. It is my sincere hope that we will come together and
agree on a way to make this matter right.
This hearing is the third in a series that I have held
since becoming chairman of this subcommittee.
As a Vietnam veteran and an Asian-Pacific American, I am
deeply committed to doing all I can to help the victims of
Agent Orange because, like the people of Vietnam, our people in
the Pacific suffer the lingering effects of genetic
abnormalities that have resulted from the legacies of war.
Specifically, from 1946 to 1958, the United States
conducted 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands with an
equivalent yield of more than 7,000 Hiroshima bombs. To put it
another way, the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs was dropped
on the Marshall Islands every day for a 12-day period. In fact,
the nuclear test, code named Bravo, was a 15-megaton hydrogen
bomb, the first of its kind, detonated on March 1, 1954. It was
equivalent to 1,300 Hiroshima bombs that were dropped in Japan
during World War II. This explosion was acknowledged as the
greatest nuclear explosion ever detonated. The Bravo test
vaporized six islands and created a mushroom cloud 25 miles in
Because people were living on these Pacific Islands during
the time of the U.S. nuclear testing program, people of the
Republic of the Marshall Islands were also exposed to severe
radiation poisoning. Even today, 64 years since the nuclear
testing program that our Government conducted in the Marshall
Islands, people from the Island of Rongelap are still exiled
from their own island due to the radioactive fallout. Many
women still give birth to what some people call ``Jelly
Babies''--deformed babies who are born with no bones, no eyes,
no heads and no limbs. They are very similar to the victims
exposed to dioxin, a chemical substance in the Agent Orange we
used in operations in Vietnam.
While the Vietnam situation is different, in some ways it
is also the same. During the Vietnam War, innocent civilians
were exposed to dioxin, a toxic contaminant known to be one of
the deadliest chemicals made by man. Dioxin was an unwanted
byproduct, but it is thought to be responsible for most of the
medical problems associated with exposure to Agent Orange.
Just as the U.S. Government has questioned the Marshall
Islands' assertions about the extent of environmental and
health problems associated with nuclear radiation, the United
States has denied any legal liability and questioned Vietnam's
assertions about the problems associated with Agent Orange. But
if you visit Tu-Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City and review the
scientific evidence as well as the testimony of Dr. Nguyen Thi
Ngoc Phuong, head of the women's health department at Ho Chi
Minh's University Medical Center, you will come to know that we
can and should do more to help the Vietnamese victims of Agent
Orange, just as we did for our own soldiers exposed to Agent
Orange during the 10-year year deg.period when we
used this so-called ``herbicide'' at the time in the war.
So far, the United States appropriated $3 million in 2007
and $6 million in 2009, and a $12 million request has been made
for Fiscal Year 2010. But this is pittance as far as I am
concerned. Moreover, the greater portion of these appropriated
funds has been used for environmental remediation, rather than
for assistance for the victims.
Today, for the first time in the history of the U.S.
Congress, a Vietnamese Agent Orange victim will testify and
share with us her story. Hers is like the story is like the
story of many of our own U.S. veterans who were also exposed
and yet had to fight and continue to fight for assistance from
our own Government.
As I have said many times before, after every war America
has always made a commitment to help the affected countries
rebuild. According to the Congressional Research Service, after
Japan attacked the United States, U.S. assistance to Japan from
1945 to 1952 amounted to about $15.2 billion in 2005 dollars.
In Germany, from 1946 to 1952, the United States provided a
total of $29.3 billion in 2005 dollars. And from 2003 to 2006,
the U.S. appropriated $35.7 billion for Iraq's reconstruction.
Why aren't we helping Vietnam more? Perhaps the Acting
Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of East Asian and
Pacific Affairs from the Department of State, and Mr. John
Wilson, the Director of the Office of Technical Support for the
Bureaus of Asia and the Middle East of USAID, will shed some
light on recent developments on remediation.
At this time, I would like to offer my deepest condolences
to the families of those USAID workers who were recently killed
in Afghanistan. These individuals worked tirelessly in a
dangerous place in order to improve the lives of the Afghan
people. It is shameful that terrorists took their lives. In
this life or in the next, my sincere hope is that justice will
Before we receive other opening statements, I want to
welcome Dr. Phuong. Dr. Phuong, are you here? Dr. Phuong is the
former Vice Speaker of the Vietnam National Assembly, currently
a member of the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group. Ms. Hoan is a
victim of Agent Orange. Both have traveled from Vietnam to
testify at this hearing.
What you may not know is that the U.S. Government does not
pay for witnesses to travel or testify before Congress.
Witnesses must pay their own travel expenses, and this has not
been easy for our Vietnamese friends and witnesses. They have
traveled at considerable expense and sacrifice, and I thank
them for being here. Their presence highlights the importance
of this issue to the people and Government of Vietnam, just as
it is important to the people of our own country, especially to
our veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange.
The sad commentary about this is that it took so many years
for our own Government to admit that because of the exposure of
our soldiers and our military men and women in uniform, only
just recently has the U.S. Government begun to accept the fact
that our own soldiers were also exposed and severely affected
health-wise just as the people of Vietnam were also exposed to
this tragic situation.
I want to say that I don't glory myself in saying that
because I served in Vietnam I am some kind of a hero. No, I was
just one of the 500,000 grunts that were there because Uncle
Sam said to go there and serve and defend this country. I would
venture to say that 99 percent of the American people never
realized the complexity of the situation in Vietnam or the
historical events and situation affecting the people of this
region of the world that we know very little about.
For some 100 years, Vietnam was colonized and exploited by
the French. During President Dwight Eisenhower's
administration, the French Government requested American
military assistance to fight the Vietnamese who, under the
leadership of Ho Chi Minh, were simply struggling for their
independence from French colonial rule. I would say 99 percent
of the American people never knew that this is what was going
on in Asia and this part of the world. In fact, it is my
understanding that President Eisenhower refused to help the
French in Vietnam for the simple reason that the French
exploitation and colonial policies of Vietnam, as well as Laos
and Cambodia, went against the ideals upon which this country
was founded as a former colony of the British Empire.
Subsequently, in 1954, long before American intervention in
Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh led his people to fight against French
colonialism, in the famous battle of Dien Bien Phu. Ho Chi Minh
simply wanted to get rid of 100 years of French colonialism and
establish a better life for his own people. Regrettably, from
the time when the U.S. entered the fray in 1955 until the Nixon
administration withdrew U.S. troops in 1975, millions of U.S.
troops served in Vietnam and more than 58,000 killed. Three to
four million Vietnamese were also killed, as were 1.5-2 million
Laotians and Cambodians. For what, we ask?
As a result of this horrific war, the U.S.-Vietnam
diplomatic and economic relationship was severed for more than
20 years following North Vietnam's victory in 1975. President
Bill Clinton finally announced the normalization of diplomatic
relations with Vietnam on July 11, 1995. Prior to this,
President Clinton had announced the end of the U.S. trade
embargo in 1994; 2 months later the U.S. Congress passed a
Foreign Relations Authorization Act containing a sense of the
Senate resolution expressing the Chamber's support for
normalization of relations with Vietnam.
In 1997, President Clinton appointed the first post-war
Ambassador to Vietnam. He also signed the landmark U.S.-Vietnam
bilateral trade agreement in 2000. I might note that my former
colleague who also served as a member of this committee,
Congressman Pete Peterson, a former prisoner of war, was
appointed U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam at that time. Vietnam did
its part, proving cooperative with POW and MIA refugee issues
and moving forward in ongoing reform efforts.
We applaud former President Clinton for his visionary
leadership which has led to this moment, and I also commend
Ambassador Le Cong Phung for the tremendous service that he has
given to his country as Ambassador to our country. And I would
be remiss if I did not mention again the names of Senators John
McCain and also Senator Kerry for their willingness to take up
the leadership and commitment despite the horrific effects of
the war that affected them physically and mentally in every
way. But these men stood their ground in saying it was time for
us to put things in the past and look at things in the forward
and reestablish normal relations with the people of Vietnam.
I made a comment last night at the event that I am sure
President Clinton must have thought very hard about how so many
bitter memories of veterans have come back from war. Many could
never forgive whatever happens. You can talk about atrocities,
but I don't think you can say that one side ever could declare
themselves to be angels in this regard. But I must say that
these two gentlemen, Senator McCain and Senator Kerry, ought to
be given every credit for their willingness to step up and do
what was right, and that was to push for normalized relations
with the Republic of Vietnam. I say if it was possible after
fighting a bitter war in World War II with Japan, against Japan
and against Germany, then certainly it is possible that we can
do the same thing with the people of Vietnam.
Today, economic ties are the most mature aspect of our
bilateral relationship. It is about a $15 billion trade right
now from last year, 10 times over 10 years ago, but I do
believe that we can do better. With all the harm that has been
done, Isincerely hope--I don't know where this is going to take
us. Some people have asked me, why are you doing this? I want
to say with the deepest regret that one of the great supporters
of this effort to build a record and to say before the American
people that we have done something here that we need to
correct, my dear friend, the late Congressman and chairman of
the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Jack Murtha,
was also willing to give his support when I was in the process
of building this record, this being the third now of a series
of holding these hearings, in the process hopefully that we
will establish better reasons to justify why we need to have
U.S. commitment to give more assistance on this tragic event.
I now have with us two distinguished gentlemen of our
administration, the State Department, here with us to testify.
Mr. Matthew Palmer, a career member of the Foreign Service,
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Southeast Asia, with the Bureau
of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Prior to that assignment,
Mr. Palmer was the Director of the Southern Caucasus, the
Aegean and Nordic Affairs at the National Security Council. His
previous assignments in Washington include 3 years on the
Secretary's Policy Planning staff in Yugoslavia. My gosh, you
were in Europe and now you are in Asia. How do you become an
expert overnight like this, Mr. Palmer?
Mr. Palmer is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations,
did his graduate studies at Wesleyan University, and also has a
master's from the University of Michigan. He is fluent in
Japanese, Serbian, and Greek. I'm sure that really helps you a
lot in Asia--to speak Greek. But I do want to welcome you, Mr.
We also have with us Dr. John Wilson. Dr. Wilson is the
director of the Office of Technical Support in the Asia and
Middle East Bureau of USAID. Dr. Wilson joined USAID in and has
been with the Asia and Middle East Bureaus since 1997. In his
career, Dr. Wilson has been responsible for providing technical
leadership in developing and implementing agency environmental
policies and programs. He is an expert on environmental
planning and management. Dr. Wilson also served as chairperson
of the Tropical Ecosystems Directorate of the U.S. Man and
Biosphere Program--boy, that is a real mouthful there. Prior to
joining USAID, Dr. Wilson was an American Association for the
Advancement of Science diplomacy fellow. He also is a graduate
of Harvard University and received his doctorate in marine
ecology from Boston University.
Gentlemen, I welcome you both here this afternoon and would
like to ask Mr. Palmer for his testimony. Please proceed.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Faleomavaega follows:]
STATEMENT OF MR. MATTHEW PALMER, ACTING DEPUTY ASSISTANT
SECRETARY, BUREAU OF EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS, U.S.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Mr. Palmer. Chairman Faleomavaega and members of the
subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to testify today on the
topic of U.S. engagement with Vietnam on issues related to
It is important to place U.S.-Vietnam cooperation on the
complex and challenging issues surrounding Agent Orange in the
context of progress in our overall bilateral relationship. This
here marks the 15th anniversary of our diplomatic relationship
with Vietnam. Over this short period, U.S.-Vietnam cooperation
has steadily matured into a robust, bilateral relationship
characterized by mutual respect and shared interests. We
continue to make progress on a growing range of issues, from
trade liberalization, health environment, to education, nuclear
safety, and security. Our strong collaboration on these issues
has created a positive environment that has allowed frank
discussions of matters on which we do not agree, such as human
USAID-Vietnam works in close partnership with the
Vietnamese Government and with our colleagues in the
Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services and in the
Environmental Protection Agency to implement a broad foreign
assistance program. As part of that program, USAID has provided
over $330 million in the last 10 years. This assistance
includes development objectives such as economic reform and
good governance, as well as programs to address genuine
humanitarian needs, including HIV/AIDS treatment and
prevention, and aid to people with disabilities regardless of
Before I turn to our cooperation on Agent Orange, it is
also important to note the significant strides we have made in
addressing other war legacy issues through our joint
collaboration with the Government of Vietnam. Thanks to a
sustained bilateral effort, we have succeeded in recovering and
accounting for the remains of 660 Americans lost during the
We also continue to make progress toward clearing
unexploded ordinance. Since 1989, the United States, through
the State Department, has provided over $37 million in a broad
spectrum of programs not only to locate, remove and destroy
unexploded ordinance, or UXO, land mines and other explosive
materials, but also to address the effects of UXO on the health
and livelihood of Vietnamese living in affected areas.
While our bilateral cooperation with the Government of
Vietnam accounting for Americans missing from the war began
more than 20 years, and on UXO issues 15 years ago, cooperation
on Agent Orange and its contaminant, dioxin, took longer to
begin. However, since 2001, our two governments have worked to
address potential environmental and health issues related to
Agent Orange and dioxin.
After several years of information sharing and capacity
building, in 2006 experts from the two nations attended the
first meeting of the Joint Advisory Committee on Agent Orange/
dioxin, the JAC. The JAC was convened to coordinate joint
research and provides technical advice to policymakers to help
develop environmental and health initiatives. The fifth annual
JAC just concluded this month in Hanoi. I am pleased to report
that in December 2009, the U.S. Government and Vietnam's
Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment signed a
Memorandum of Understanding on Agent Orange, formalizing years
of cooperation and marking a new level of commitment to
resolving this issue. The document serves as the framework for
future cooperation on environmental health and remediation
research activities and ensures that U.S. activities align with
Both the United States and Vietnam agree that the health of
the Vietnamese people and the safety of its environment will be
vital for Vietnam's future. In the spirit of humanitarian
concern, we have provided more than $46 million in assistance
for all Vietnamese living with disabilities without regard to
cause, including nearly $25 million from the Leahy War Victims
Fund. We have also expanded disability assistance in the
communities surrounding the Da Nang Airport.
With funding from the Fiscal Year 2007 and Fiscal Year 2009
appropriations, USAID is nearing the completion of the second
year of separate 3-year cooperative agreements with Save the
Children, East Meets West Foundation, and Vietnam Assistance to
the Handicapped. These organizations are providing services
such as skills training, medical support, and employment
assistance to people with disabilities in Da Nang. In addition,
with Ford Foundation support, several experts from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention just completed a workshop
with their Vietnamese counterparts to facilitate the early
identification of children at risk for developmental
disabilities and to improve birth defect and chronic disease
surveillance systems. These projects aim to expand the scope of
health assistance beyond support for people with disabilities
toward the goal of reducing the overall disability burden in
The United States also recognizes the importance of
remediation at hotspots, the former air bases where dioxin
contamination exceeds international safety standards. Building
on past containment efforts, we now are collaborating to
eliminate the potential for dioxin exposure at the Da Nang
Airport. Our activities complement the efforts of a broad
coalition. The Government of Vietnam, the United Nations
Development Program, the Ford Foundation, and others, are
committing substantial resources to dioxin remediation
throughout the country. UNDP and the Government of Vietnam have
just signed an agreement for $5 million to support dioxin
remediation at dioxin hotspots, with an initial focus at Bien
Hoa, a project specifically promoted by UNDP to compliment U.S.
As requested by the Government of Vietnam and as reviewed
scientifically by the bilateral multi-agency Joint Advisory
Committee on Agent Orange, the United States is focusing its
remediation efforts on Da Nang Airport. Thoughwe share the
desire to implement remediation as soon as possible, our
overriding goal is to complete dioxin destruction that ensures
worker safety, permanently removes potential exposure to Da
Nang residents, and fully complies with U.S. and Vietnamese
law. We are moving as fast as possible to do this, but we want
to make sure that we pay attention to the details and get this
Last year, we reported to this committee on the beginning
stages of a remediation project, the U.S. plan for Da Nang. I
am pleased to note that we have made great progress toward our
remediation goals. Working with the Ford Foundation, the EAP
and the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology are jointly
piloting innovative bioremediation technology at Da Nang
Airport. At the same time, in close consultation with the
Government of Vietnam and consistent with U.S. and Vietnamese
legal requirements, a USAID contractor is finalizing an
environmental assessment for dioxin remediation at Da Nang and
expects to begin developing engineering and design plans for
the technology selected through the assessment process in
August of this year.
Vietnamese efforts to expand the Da Nang Airport highlight
the need to move as quickly as possible. Ongoing construction
has already displaced contaminated soil and sediment, posing
risks to human health in the surrounding area. In consultation
with central authorities and airport officials, we have
developed a remediation plan that USAID estimates can be shovel
ready in early 2011, consistent with airport expansion plans,
and could be completed by 2013 subject to availability of
The complete and permanent elimination of dioxin
contamination from Da Nang due to Agent Orange would represent
the most significant action we can take to alleviate the
environmental concerns and possible health impacts to Da Nang
and offer resolution to one of the Government of Vietnam's high
priority concerns. It could also provide a model for moving
ahead with remediation at other dioxin hotspots.
USAID estimates at least $34 million in project costs is
required to complete this remediation. The State Department and
USAID have identified approximately $4.9 million for this
project from the Fiscal Year 2010 appropriation, $3 million in
economic support funds, and $1.9 million in development
assistance funds. Additionally, the Fiscal Year 2011 budget
request also includes some resources for these activities.
Over the last several years, the United States has worked
with Vietnam to ensure that our Agent Orange activities align
with Vietnamese health and environmental objectives. This
cooperation has brought us closer than ever to the permanent
elimination of dioxin at Da Nang Airport due to Agent Orange
and has allowed us to provide much-needed assistance to
Agent Orange has long been a sensitive topic in U.S.-
Vietnam relations, and we have had some past challenges
reaching agreement on how and where to cooperate, but we are
now transforming dialogue into tangible improvements in the
environment and health of the people of Vietnam. The United
States Government has demonstrated a firm commitment on working
to find a resolution to this lingering concern and to ensuring
the continued improvement of U.S.-Vietnam relations.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to appear before
you today. I welcome your questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Palmer follows:]
Mr. Faleomavaega. Thank you, Mr. Palmer and Dr. Wilson, for
STATEMENT OF JOHN WILSON, PH.D., DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF TECHNICAL
SUPPORT, BUREAUS FOR ASIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST, U.S. AGENCY FOR
Mr. Wilson. Chairman Faleomavaega, Ranking Member Manzullo,
and members of the subcommittee, thank you for inviting me
today to report on recent developments in remediation of Agent
Orange in Vietnam. I will summarize my written statement and
ask that it be submitted for the record.
The United States recognizes the importance of dioxin
remediation at hotspots in Vietnam. Dioxin contamination has
been of longstanding concern to both countries, and the issue
has at times strained our bilateral relationship.
As the lead agency responsible for dioxin remediation,
USAID is working collaboratively with our colleagues at the
State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency to
eliminate the potential for dioxin exposure at the Da Nang
As the environmental officer for the Asia and Middle East
Bureaus, I am responsible for overseeing compliance with
USAID's environmental procedures. Last fall, I led the team
that initiated the environmental assessment for dioxin
remediation at Da Nang Airport. My doctorate in ecology and
geochemistry also puts me in a strong position to review the
science behind the assessment and determine the preferred
alternative for environmental remediation at Da Nang.
My written statement describes in some detail USAID's plans
to implement the remediation effort. I won't review all of that
now in the interest of time. I also won't review the state of
U.S.-Vietnam cooperation since my colleague from the State
Department has just done so, though I would also underscore the
importance of the collaborative effort on dioxin remediation
between the United States and the Government of Vietnam. It is
the reason that we are able to move forward on this proposal.
I would like to briefly describe the situation on the
ground and the next steps for implementing USAID's remediation
Testing has shown that dioxin contamination in soils at Da
Nang, Bien Hoa and Phu Cat exceeds international standards. As
requested by the Government of Vietnam, the United States is
providing assistance in Da Nang to remediate dioxin-
contaminated soil and provide humanitarian support for
Mr. Chairman, Da Nang is the third largest city in Vietnam
and it is rapidly growing. The airport is located in Da Nang
City within a densely populated urban area. It is a busy
international airport, which the Government of Vietnam is
expanding to accommodate increased traffic. For the remediation
effort, the airport expansion is an important factor because
the dioxin hotspot sites are in the path of the construction,
and in some places within meters of residential areas.
The environmental assessment, which I recently approved,
evaluated alternatives for addressing the remediation at Da
Nang. We looked at three approaches and selected as the
preferred alternative in-situ/in-pile thermal desorption and
destruction of dioxin. Thermal desorption is an innovative
dioxin-destruction technology and the only technology option
that has been proven to destroy dioxin to levels that meet both
soil and sediment national dioxin standards in Vietnam. The
costs associated with this approach are similar to other
alternatives. This option will result in the least exposure to
residents and will also provide a permanent remedy.
Given the extent of contamination, the imminent airport
construction plans, and the potential threat to the local
population, it is important that we act now to remediate dioxin
at Da Nang Airport to ensure that airport construction work
does not increase exposure to dioxin for area residents and
USAID is wrapping up the design phase of the dioxin
remediation program. With the selection of the dioxin treatment
alternative, we are proceeding with the engineering design for
thermal desorption and destruction. We expect to complete the
final design this fall. We estimate that the final phase of
this project will cost approximately $34 million. Subject to
funding availability, USAID could begin the work on dioxin
remediation as early as spring 2011, and complete the work
within 2 years. Our remediation work will help close a
difficult chapter in U.S.-Vietnam relations and ensure a better
environment for the Vietnamese people.
The elimination of dioxin in the soils and sediment at Da
Nang will permanently resolve one of the Government of
Vietnam's lingering concerns about contamination associated
with Agent Orange and demonstrate, tangibly, the United States'
commitment to the continued improvement of U.S.-Vietnam
Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to be able to report today on
the progress USAID has made toward implementation of the dioxin
remediation program. Thank you for this opportunity to appear
before you today. I will be happy to take your questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Wilson follows:]
Mr. Faleomavaega. I want to thank you both, gentlemen, for
your most precise statements.
I do have a couple of questions, if I may, to follow up on
some of the good indicators that I hear with such positive
reaction to your sharing with us the developments in dealing
Mr. Palmer, you mentioned that this is the fifth annual JAC
meeting that was held in Hanoi. Was this last year?
Mr. Palmer. I believe the date of that meeting was 2010,
but I need to double check that, sir.
Mr. Faleomavaega. It doesn't have to be specific. I just
wanted to get an idea. This is the fifth time that we have had
annual meetings on this?
Mr. Palmer. It is my understanding that--yes, it is the
fifth, and it was just held in July.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Do you think it might be the fifth and
the last time that we might be meeting? I am just so encouraged
by some of these decisions to appropriate $46 million here and
$35 million there. This is big-time news, the first time that I
hear in specific terms that we are focusing on the Agent Orange
issue that we have been trying to address.
You mentioned that the other important issue that caused
both of our countries to work together was dealing with POWs
and those missing in action, over which the Vietnamese
Government was very cooperative and very much wanted to be as
much help. Ironically, there are still 30,000 of our soldiers
who have not been located from World War II, especially in
Asia. But that is a pretty good record, the fact that of the
2,000 missing and now to the point where we have been able to
locate about another 600, as you had mentioned. Are we still
looking for others? What are the statistics on those still
missing in action so far? Have we developed a statistic on
Mr. Palmer. Mr. Chairman, I don't have those numbers with
me. I would have to check with my colleagues at the Department
Mr. Faleomavaega. I would appreciate it if you can submit
that for the record. I want to know that.
[The information referred to follows:]
Written Response Received from Mr. Matthew Palmer to Question Asked
During the Hearing by the Honorable Eni F.H. Faleomavaega
The Department of Defense, Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office
has provided the following information:
As of August 2, the most recent posting of numbers, there are 1,712
Americans still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
The breakdown by country is:
Vietnam: 1,310 still unaccounted for/661 recovered
Laos: 336 still unaccounted for/239 recovered and
Cambodia: 59 still unaccounted for/31 recovered and
China: 7 still unaccounted for/3 recovered and
Mr. Faleomavaega. How was it possible that when we
conducted these spraying operations for some 10-year period,
until 5 years later found out that this dioxin substance was
discovered contained in Agent Orange? Were there other
operations in previous wars where this substance was utilized
as we did in Vietnam?
Mr. Palmer. Again, Mr. Chairman, I need to refer that
question to my colleagues at the Defense Department. I can
check and get back to you.
[The information referred to follows:]
Written Response Received from Mr. Matthew Palmer to Question Asked
During the Hearing by the Honorable Eni F.H. Faleomavaega
As then Secretary of Defense Cohen stated publicly in 1999, in the
late 1960s Republic of Korea (ROK) troops sprayed Agent Orange in the
area of the Demilitarized Zone. Agent Orange was not used in wars prior
to the Vietnam War, the Department of Defense reports. According to a
study of Agent Orange (Cecil PF (1986): Herbicidal Warfare: The RANCH
HAND Project in Vietnam. Praeger Special Studies, Praeger Scientific,
New York, NY) the United States Army Chemical Corps at Fort Detrick,
Maryland, developed the formulation for Agent Orange in 1963. Following
extensive evaluation, it was first deployed in Southern Vietnam on
March 1, 1965.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Yes, I would be interested. I am curious.
The point I wanted to make is that I know we are very sensitive
about chemical and biological substances that we have even
participated in conventions and treaties to make sure that we
do not use chemical and biological agents as much as we can
discern, and yet in this specific instance where this very
deadly substance, the dioxin, was used during the Vietnam War.
I am just curious if we have used the same substance in some
other conflicts. Have we ever had any previous experience to
now coming to an understanding that we had used dioxin as part
of our war effort in Vietnam? Were there other countries that
were also exposed to this, whether it be during World War II or
was this something that we just discovered in the 1960s?
Mr. Palmer. Mr. Chairman, I have no information on that. I
will address that question to my defense colleagues.
[The information referred to follows:]
Written Response Received from Mr. Matthew Palmer to Question Asked
During the Hearing by the Honorable Eni F.H. Faleomavaega
As noted in response to the previous question, in the late 1960s
ROK troops sprayed Agent Orange in the area of the Demilitarized Zone,
as then Secretary of Defense Cohen stated publicly in 1999.
Regarding Agent Orange in Vietnam, according to the Department of
Defense, the United States did not know until late 1968 that Dioxin was
a contaminant in Agent Orange. The United States subsequently
restricted the use of Agent Orange near any populated areas. Once the
science was clarified, the Department of Defense terminated all
spraying of Agent Orange on 15 April 1970.
The Department of Defense is currently reviewing a report covering
allegations that veterans were exposed to Agent Orange in countries
besides Vietnam. The report is expected to be released and briefed in
September 2010. There are no known records, documents, or staff reports
that show that Agent Orange or other tactical herbicides, were ever
sprayed on military bases in countries where (and when) U.S. troops
were located during the Vietnam War.
Mr. Faleomavaega. I fully understand. I am not a doctor. I
am not a scientist myself, but I am just curious and wanted to
get a little more substance on this.
Since your JAC meeting, have there been any estimates made
on the number of Vietnamese victims who were exposed to Agent
Mr. Palmer. The U.S. Government has no such estimates, sir.
Our programming in Vietnam related to assistance to people with
disabilities is for people regardless of cause. We do not ask
people to prove what the source or cause for a particular
disability is. So we have significant, robust assistance
programs in Vietnam helping those who are disabled as a
humanitarian concern, but we do not seek to identify the
Mr. Faleomavaega. I mean, we are spending $45 million, $46
million, $25 million. At least we should know the numbers we
are dealing with. I mean, is it two Vietnamese, or is it 3,000
or 20,000 victims? I am a little surprised that for the annual
meeting there hasn't been some kind of record keeping, at least
by way of identifying how many victims there are.
Mr. Palmer. I don't know that there is a scientific way to
do that, Mr. Chairman. Birth defects are due to many factors,
including malnutrition, inherited disorders, parental age,
environmental and occupational exposures. These factors add to
the complexity of linking any particular disease or disorder
with dioxin alone. So through our efforts we are not attempting
to do that, we are attempting, to the extent possible, to
provide assistance to those in Vietnam with disabilities
without asking for proof or evidence regarding the origins or
source of that disability.
Mr. Faleomavaega. How is it that we have established our
national policy, especially for those of us who were there at
the time when the Agent Orange was being utilized? I was there
in 1967 and 1968, and our Government now says any of our
soldiers who were in Vietnam during that 10-year period can
apply and get some kind of a restitution or effort, even though
you don't even have to prove that you may have been exposed to
Agent Orange. Just the fact that you were in Vietnam is the
trigger. I haven't even made an application for an Agent Orange
benefit yet, so I have high blood pressure, I have all kinds of
stuff that could all be related my service in Vietnam. But I
just wanted to know, you are saying that you don't keep track
of any of the records or studies. Is this one of the problems
that we still have of not being able to specifically pinpoint
the fact that these people ended up being disabled because of
the Agent Orange/dioxin? You said there were other critical
factors. I understand that.
Mr. Palmer. Mr. Chairman, we do not believe that there is a
scientific way in which to tell whether a particular disability
or an individual suffering from a disability is suffering that
disability as a consequence or a result of exposure to dioxin.
As a consequence of that, our assistance efforts in Vietnam are
very broad based. We provide assistance without regard to the
cause of disability.
We recognize and understand the burden that people with
disabilities place on an under-resourced Vietnamese system, and
we are doing what we can do provide assistance, but we are not,
through our programming, seeking to differentiate between those
who are suffering from exposure to dioxin and those who are
Mr. Faleomavaega. Is our Government giving some kind of
assistance for conducting laboratory research about dioxin and
its effect on human beings? To what extent could this be one of
the reasons why many Vietnamese babies end up being disabled
Mr. Palmer. If there is such a program, it is not a State
Department program. I don't know if there are other scientific
programs that may be funded through other institutions. I would
also ask my USAID colleague if he is familiar with any such
Mr. Faleomavaega. So as far as the State Department is
concerned, you are not in any way involved in any form of
research to even find out a the connection? That is what I am
trying to figure out, if there is a connection between dioxin
and the Vietnamese people being what they are in terms of
ending up being abnormal and deformed.
Mr. Palmer. The programs that we support, Mr. Chairman, are
to provide assistance to people with disabilities.
Mr. Faleomavaega. And not just on Agent Orange?
Mr. Palmer. Without regard to cause.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Okay. Dr. Wilson.
Mr. Wilson. I am unaware of any program such as you have
just described, sir. I believe that we are providing support
for laboratory equipment and testing on the presence of dioxin
in soils so that we can proceed with the cleanup.
Mr. Faleomavaega. What is your view of the fact that our
policy toward all the veterans who served in Vietnam from 1961
to 1971, our broad policy is the fact that they are entitled to
some kind of benefit? The presumption is that they may have
been exposed to Agent Orange. I guess that is quite a contrast
from our policy toward the Vietnamese concerning this very
Mr. Palmer. I think it is a matter of effect, Mr. Chairman,
that the programs that we have in Vietnam which don't seek to
identify the origins or source of a disability provide
assistance equally to all those who are dealing with these
Mr. Faleomavaega. I am sorry. I just want to say that I
want to recognize the presence of my dear friend and ranking
member of our subcommittee, the gentleman from Illinois, Mr.
Manzullo. And I would like to invite him to give his opening
Mr. Manzullo. Mr. Chairman, I don't have any questions. You
have been asking the very questions that I would ask anyway, so
I would give my time to you so you can finish up on your
Mr. Faleomavaega. All right. I appreciate that. I
I just want to be clear, do we have a policy toward Agent
Orange? I mean, you are saying that whatever assistance you are
giving Vietnam, Agent Orange really is not in there. I am a
little fuzzy about this now. I thought that this JAC meeting
that you have had for the fifth annual period now in Hanoi,
that one of them was intended to address people with
disabilities who were impacted or exposed to Agent Orange,
specifically the dioxin chemical that I have just said is one
of the deadliest chemicals that man has ever devised. If I am
hearing correctly, you are saying that that really is not the
basis of the assistance that we are giving Vietnam, that Agent
Orange is not one of them. Please clarify that. I am not
catching on here.
Mr. Palmer. There are two prongs to the assistance efforts
in Vietnam, Mr. Chairman. Together with our Vietnamese
partners, we continue to refine a strategy to respond to
environmental contamination and health concerns. As part of
that strategy we are working on dioxin containment and
remediation, improving the lives of people with disabilities
and the development of programs to prevent birth defects in
So on the one hand, we are providing assistance to those
suffering from disabilities without regard to the source or
cause of those disabilities, and on the other, we are working
to contain and remediate dioxin hotspots in Vietnam.
Mr. Faleomavaega. You mentioned Da Nang Airport as one of
the hotspots where we are conducting these remediation
projects. How big is Da Nang Airport?
Mr. Palmer. How big is the area that----
Mr. Faleomavaega. Yes, 200 acres, 3,000 acres? How big is
Da Nang Airport?
Mr. Palmer. Dr. Wilson, do you know the answer to that? I
have to admit I am not sure.
Mr. Wilson. I believe that it is about 20 acres that we are
dealing with. It is a substantial amount of soil, but it is not
that large an area at Da Nang Airport that we are going to be
working on. There is a lake that has sediment that is
contaminated that needs to be remediated, and there is a mixing
and loading area that is also going to be remediated.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Is Da Nang the only location where we
stockpiled these chemical agents, or were there other places in
Vietnam where we did this?
Mr. Palmer. There were other places in Vietnam, Mr.
Chairman, and there are other hotspots. We are beginning with
Da Nang, and the hope is that success in Da Nang can serve as a
model for remediation efforts in other hotspot areas.
Mr. Faleomavaega. This being the fifth time that you have
had this annual meeting, how many other hotspots do we have in
Vietnam besides Da Nang?
Mr. Palmer. I believe there are three major hotspots and a
number of smaller areas of concern, on the order of 20 to 25.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Dr. Wilson.
Mr. Wilson. There are three known hotspots that the donors
are working on. The United Nations Development Program has
recently signed a grant for $5 million with the Government of
Vietnam to work on the remediation of Bien Hoa, and Phu Cat has
also been identified as a hotspot that needs to be remediated.
Mr. Faleomavaega. I am still learning how to speak English.
Can you elaborate when you say ``remediation?'' Are you going
to clean up the soil or take the dioxin? What do you do, put it
in milk or something? When you remediate something, what do you
Mr. Wilson. Mr. Chairman, we mean that in the case of Da
Nang Airport we are going to destroy the dioxin through a
thermal desorption and destruction----
Mr. Faleomavaega. How do you destroy dioxin?
Mr. Wilson. You destroy it, sir, by digging it up, putting
it into a pile, heating that pile to 350 degrees centigrade and
vaporizing and destroying the dioxin.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Not 350 degrees Fahrenheit?
Mr. Wilson. Not Fahrenheit, sir. Centigrade.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Centrigrade?
Mr. Wilson. Yes, it is hot.
Mr. Faleomavaega. And what is the life span of the dioxin?
Mr. Wilson. The dioxin will be destroyed through this
process. The process has been tested and proven to work in
California, and the Japanese Government also recently tested
and accepted thermal desorption as an acceptable treatment for
Mr. Faleomavaega. So you breathe the air. You are burning
this 350 degrees centigrade?
Mr. Wilson. This is different, sir, than the incineration
of the soil. It is a technique by which the pile is capped and
the air is extracted and treated, but there is no release of
dioxin in the air.
Mr. Faleomavaega. How deep do you dig in the soil?
Mr. Wilson. The testing that will be carried out will
determine the depth of soil that has to be removed. That is
part of the process of the digging that will be done. The
testing has shown that it is several meters deep in some
places, but we are making sure that we capture the contaminated
sediment and treat the contaminated sediment.
Mr. Faleomavaega. When you say sediment, what if they are
Mr. Wilson. That is true, sir. There are two areas that are
contaminated, one of them is wetlands, it is a lake. The lake
will need to be drained, the sediment will need to be removed,
and then the wetlands will be restored. There is also
contamination of soil, and that will also be treated.
The benefit of this technique is that it is the most
environmentally safe way to deal with the dioxin. It removes
the dioxin permanently, and it is the most effective way to
reduce the threat in the future.
Mr. Faleomavaega. What was the reason dioxin was used as
part of this chemical substance that we conducted to defoliage
operations in Vietnam? I know the reason we conducted this was
to clear the forest so we could identify the enemy soldiers,
which blows my mind. I just can't understand the logic of that.
So in the process of conducting this deforestation, the
substance ends up being exposed to human beings that are not
trees or flowers, or whatever, but human beings were being
exposed to this.
Have there been any estimates by our Government on the
number of soldiers, our own soldiers, who were exposed to Agent
Mr. Palmer. None that I am familiar with, Mr. Chairman.
Again, that is a question that I would need to refer to
colleagues at the Department of Defense.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Okay. I am just trying to get some
connection here. I felt very encouraged. When is your next
annual JAC meeting? Is it next year or are you having it this
Mr. Palmer. My understanding is that it should be next
year. I don't know that a date has been scheduled. It is
intended as an annual meeting. We recently had the 2010
meeting, so my understanding is there will be another meeting
in 2011, but I don't have a date for you, sir.
Mr. Faleomavaega. I don't know if I am going to be
reelected come November, but will I be invited if I do come
back in November?
Mr. Palmer. I will see what I can do.
[The information referred to follows:]
Written Response Received from Mr. Matthew Palmer to Question Asked
During the Hearing by the Honorable Eni F.H. Faleomavaega
The General Counsel's Office at the Department of Veterans Affairs
(VA) reports that veterans' benefits laws reflect the assumption that
veterans may have been exposed to herbicides by means of inhalation,
ingestion, or skin contact during service in areas where herbicides
were applied and could have developed health problems due to such
exposure. For purposes of entitlement to veterans' benefits, Congress
has provided in 38 U.S.C. 1116(f) that any veteran who served in
Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, will be presumed to
have been exposed to herbicides during such service. The statute
codified a longstanding VA policy of conceding exposure because VA
concluded that it was not feasible to determine which veterans were
actually exposed to herbicides in service, due to limitations of
records documenting dates and locations of herbicide application and
troop movements. For similar practical reasons, VA also concedes
exposure for veterans who served in or near the Korean demilitarized
zone (DMZ) during periods when herbicides are known to have been
applied in that area.
The Department of Defense reports that there were only two military
units in Vietnam known to have come into actual contact with the
tactical liquid herbicide, the men of Operation Ranch Hand
(approximately 1,200) and the men in the U.S. Army Chemical Corps
(approximately 2,900). These were the men who handled and sprayed Agent
Orange, Agent Blue, and Agent White. The Department of Defense notes
that the term ``tactical herbicide'' is very important because it
distinguishes the commercial herbicides that were used by the Base
Engineers from the tactical herbicides used by Operation Ranch Hand and
Chemical Corps personnel. Agent Orange and the other tactical
herbicides were not permitted to be sprayed over or on bases.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Well, I do want to thank both of you
gentlemen. I am going to have to fault my staff for not getting
someone from the Department of Defense who basically is
responsible for the conduct of this whole operation. So we are
going to have to have another hearing then. It is going to be
the fourth hearing now we are going to have on this issue.
But I do want to thank the State Department and especially
USAID for all that you are doing. But I am not letting you guys
off now. I am still trying to dig in on this thing. And of
course it isn't just that we expect that we are going to do the
work. This is a partnership effort and I am sure our good
friends--the leaders of Vietnam and the people there--are going
to be very cooperative and see what we can do to work together
on this. But I am going to have to work this with the
Department of Defense. All you do is sign treaties, right? So
the Department of Defense is the one that actually puts out the
poison, right? It is not the State Department. It is the
Department of Defense that does the bad work.
Mr. Palmer. We do have some programs that are currently in
place run through the authority of the Department of State
aimed, again, at providing assistance to those with
disabilities and remediating the dioxin. So in terms of the
efforts that are underway now, that is led by the Department of
State and USAID.
Mr. Faleomavaega. In your meeting, did both of you attend
the JAC meeting that was held in Hanoi?
Mr. Wilson. Mr. Chairman, I was invited to the JAC meeting.
I would like to point out that the JAC meeting, the U.S. Joint
Advisory Committee meeting, is a meeting to talk about research
cooperation in large part. USAID is leading the thermal
desorption destruction effort. We plan to move forward as
quickly as possible with that, and we will keep the JAC people
informed as we move forward.
Mr. Faleomavaega. And the Ford Foundation is still a
participant in the series of meetings?
What do you gentlemen see as something that the Congress
can do to help in the effort?
Mr. Palmer. Unless we have the resources necessary to carry
out the programming in place, we will not be successful in
these efforts. There is a budget process that results in a
request to Congress. We stand behind the budget request, and we
look forward to working with Congress on the administration's
budget requests in future fiscal years.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Dr. Wilson, you mentioned that you are
going to need about $37 million to conduct a thermal
desorption. You gave me some scientific description, but I have
no idea what you meant by it. Can you elaborate a little
further on that? How we are going to spend this $37 million?
Mr. Wilson. The $37 million is to complete the destruction
of the dioxin at the site. There are three components of the
engineering plan. The first component is the oversight of the
construction process. The second part is digging it up and
hauling it and storing it in the stockpile. And the third
component of the engineering work is actually working with a
firm in California, TerraTherm, that will install the heating
system and monitor and destroy the dioxin in the soil. So we
expect to complete this exercise over 2 years, if we can move
forward as quickly as possible.
Mr. Faleomavaega. You know, the companies, Dow and
Monsanto, were the primary makers of Agent Orange. And I was
just wondering, has the government contacted them? I would
think they know more about the substance because they were the
ones that created it. Have you conducted any dialogue with
these two companies that produced this Agent Orange?
Mr. Wilson. Mr. Chairman, I am not aware of contact with
those companies. I am aware that we have identified the firm
that knows how to destroy dioxin. They have done it before, and
we are going to use them.
Mr. Faleomavaega. I forgot to ask for the record, what is
the lifespan of dioxin?
Mr. Wilson. I did not. I understand that the half life of
dioxin is 100 years in the environment.
Mr. Faleomavaega. What do you mean by half life? It lasts
only 50 years?
Mr. Wilson. No, sir, Mr. Chairman. It means that after 100
years, half of the dioxin will be gone, so it takes a long
Mr. Faleomavaega. My gosh, we will all be dead and it will
still be there.
Mr. Wilson. Sir, that is why we need to destroy the
Mr. Faleomavaega. Okay. And you are saying that there is no
connection to the problems facing the Vietnamese people who end
up disabled and handicapped and deformed?
Mr. Palmer. No, Mr. Chairman. I am saying no such thing.
The point that I was making is that the U.S. program is to
provide assistance to people with disabilities without asking
for evidence of cause or origin of the disability.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Shouldn't we be asking for that to know
specifically how we are spending our money?
Mr. Palmer. Our goal in our programs is to provide
humanitarian assistance to all of those in Vietnam who require
assistance. In our view, it would be an unfair and undue burden
to place on those suffering from disabilities to prove the
cause, source, or origin of the disabilities that they struggle
Mr. Faleomavaega. At the same time, have Vietnamese
officials contacted by our Government shown us that there
definitely is a connection between Agent Orange and these
people ending up being deformed?
Mr. Palmer. It is certainly the position of the Government
of Vietnam, as understand it, that that is true.
Mr. Faleomavaega. But it is not our position?
Mr. Palmer. We do not believe that there is sufficient
scientific evidence that would enable us to identify the cause
or origin of an individual's disability.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Even though we know that dioxin is one of
the deadliest chemical substances ever made?
Mr. Palmer. These are the sorts of questions that Jack is
discussing scientist to scientist. I have not seen any
evidence--we have not seen any evidence that would allow us to
draw those kinds of one-for-one conclusions that might enable
the kind of thing that you are talking about.
So our goal is to provide assistance to people in Vietnam
who need assistance, to those with disabilities who struggle
with their disabilities and who place a burden on the
Vietnamese social service system, which is under-resourced.
So, through our programming, we do provide considerable
assistance to disabled individuals in Vietnam. We do not ask
them to provide any kind of evidence or documentation regarding
how it is that they became disabled or what the cause or source
of their disability is. That seems like an unreasonable burden
to us, sir.
Mr. Faleomavaega. The gentleman from Illinois.
Mr. Manzullo. Thank you.
Just a short question. Even if you knew or agreed with
others that there is a causal link with Agent Orange and the
disabilities, my understanding from your testimony is that you
would simply continue in doing what you are doing now and
treating everybody with disabilities, regardless of the cause.
Would that be correct, Mr. Palmer?
Mr. Palmer. Not everybody, Mr. Manzullo. As many as we can
with the resources that we have available.
So the fundamental underlying principle of our program
efforts in Vietnam with respect to those, supporting those
suffering from disabilities, is that we provide this assistance
without a requirement that those benefiting from these programs
provide evidence or documentation related to the cause of their
disabilities. We have no such requirement. We think such a
requirement would be unreasonable and scientifically
Mr. Manzullo. So you bypass that causal requirement, and go
right to the needs of the people.
Mr. Palmer. We see no causal requirement, sir. The program
is to provide assistance to people with disabilities.
Mr. Manzullo. Okay. I think I understand.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Well, with all due respect, I don't
How is it that we are able to recognize the seriousness of
this chemical agent, Agent Orange? Of course, it took us many
years until our veterans started screaming bloody hell after
being exposed to dioxin and Agent Orange that their health was
affected? And now we are giving them assistance. But by your
statement, saying that our policy is not toward Agent Orange
but to help anyone with disabilities, including those who were
exposed to Agent Orange. Is this our policy right now?
Mr. Palmer. Mr. Chairman, there are two issues that we see
in front of us.
One is the issue of health services, and the other is the
issue of environmental remediation.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Okay.
Mr. Palmer. On the issue of environmental remediation, our
goal is to identify dioxin hot spots, come up with a plan----
Mr. Faleomavaega. Well, environmental remediation because
of the dangers that dioxin poses to human beings exposed to it.
Mr. Palmer. Certainly, in the hot spot in Danang, the
levels of dioxin are above those that are generally accepted as
international safety standards. So, yes, because of potential
health risks, we do wish to complete the remediation of the
dioxin hot spots in Danang.
So we have on the one track that is related to
environmental remediation and robust programming design to make
progress in that area.
In terms of the consequences that--the potential health
consequences of Agent Orange, we understand that this is an
important and sensitive issue for the Government of Vietnam.
And we want to do what we can to provide assistance in this
Since it is our position that there is no accepted
scientific link, scientific method by which you can identify
whether a particular individual is suffering from a birth
defect as a consequence or result of dioxin exposure or Agent
Orange, our policy is to provide assistance to those with
disabilities in Vietnam without regard to cause. So these two
things we see as mutually reinforcing, mutually supporting, and
consistent with the needs and the goals of the Government of
Mr. Faleomavaega. Well, mutually enforcing and mutually
supporting, but mutually denying that the presence of dioxin
may have impacted the lives and the health of these people who
were exposed to Agent Orange.
And I am not trying to argue with you, Mr. Palmer. I am
just trying to figure exactly what the policy of our Government
You are saying that we are helping anyone with
disabilities. But you don't mention anything about dioxin. Is
that because there has been no scientific research to prove
that there is a connection between people with physical
disabilities and exposure to dioxin?
Mr. Palmer. No, Mr. Chairman.
Again, that is not what I am saying.
The point that I would like to make here is that our
assistance efforts in Vietnam for those with disabilities do
not ask for individuals with disabilities to prove or document
the source of those disabilities.
The science on whether or not dioxin itself is dangerous is
separate and apart from this issue.
The question before us is, if we wish to provide support
and assistance to those in Vietnam who are suffering from
disabilities, does it make sense to try through some system to
identify those whose disabilities is a direct cause or
consequence of Agent Orange? And we do not believe that there
is a scientific way of doing that.
Therefore, in our view, it is the most humanitarian
approach to provide treatment to those who need treatment, to
provide assistance to those who need assistance, without regard
to cause and without asking them to document that which, in our
view, cannot be documented.
Mr. Faleomavaega. I know that our veterans organizations
filed suit against these two chemical companies to find a
causal connection between them who produced the substance,
Agent Orange, with the dioxin contained in it. And it went
through the Federal courts.
And is this one reason for the refusal to acknowledge any
connection of liability for these lawsuits. Even our own
veterans have felt that their health conditions were due to
exposure to Agent Orange. But now, the policy basically of our
Government is that there is no such connection. And that is the
same thing with the people and the Government of Vietnam.
Mr. Palmer. Sir, it is not our position that Agent Orange
and dioxin are not dangerous.
It is our position that you cannot identify, on an
individual case, the cause or source of that disability.
Given that view, it is our policy to provide assistance to
those who need assistance in Vietnam without regard to cause.
We don't ask them to prove the source or the cause of the
disability in question. We provide services to as many people
as we can with the resources that we have.
Mr. Faleomavaega. That has been a sensitive issue for all
these years because we refuse to admit that, because of Agent
Orange, this is the reason why we have abnormal and deformed
children and people out of Vietnam. I mean, that seems to be
the very bottom line why we continue our policy, to admit some
sense of culpability, because we are the ones who sprayed the
Agent Orange, not the Vietnamese.
But would you support the idea of conducting scientific
research as much as possible to see if there is a causal
connection between dioxin and Agent Orange and the people who
were exposed to the substance?
Mr. Palmer. Mr. Chairman, in my view and in the view of the
administration, the most humanitarian approach that we could
take to dealing with this problem in Vietnam is to continue to
provide assistance to people without requiring that they
document the cause of their disability----
Mr. Faleomavaega. But that doesn't answer my question.
My point is that we spread this substance that impacted not
only the flora and the fauna but also exposed a lot of human
beings and caused a lot of problems. And my question is whether
or not our Government would be willing to conduct scientific
research just to see what the effects of dioxin are toward
human beings if they are exposed. Would that be something that
we ought to do at our next annual JAG meeting?
Mr. Palmer. In my own view, sir, the best use of the
resources that we have available is to provide assistance to
those who need assistance.
Mr. Faleomavaega. And let's just forget about dioxin?
Mr. Palmer. No, sir. We think that it is very important to
continue efforts to remediate the dioxin hot spots in Vietnam.
Mr. Faleomavaega. And in our programs to remediate the
presence of dioxin throughout Vietnam, what are we looking at
in terms of how that will help the people who are already
exposed to dioxin?
Mr. Palmer. As part of our two-track approach to dealing
both with the environmental and the health issues, the
environmental goals are through direct remediation of hot spots
to address health concerns. We have robust programs in place to
provide assistance to people with disabilities in Vietnam.
Those programs are meeting a very important need, and we intend
to continue those programs.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Are there any laboratories in other parts
of the world that are researching the good things that come out
of dioxin or the bad things that come out of it? Are there
companies or countries that continue to study the effects of
dioxin in that sense? Are there any scientific studies being
conducted right now in labs and other countries, or do we just
not even bother with it?
Mr. Palmer. I don't know the answer to that, Mr. Chairman.
I will see what I can find out, but it is a very broad
question and I don't know the answer to that.
[The information referred to follows:]
Written Response Received from Mr. Matthew Palmer to Question Asked
During the Hearing by the Honorable Eni F.H. Faleomavaega
The Department of Defense reports that no known scientific studies
are currently being undertaken on the effects of dioxin, but extensive
data has been compiled from past examinations of the herbicides in
Mr. Faleomavaega. Has there been any movement to maybe put
a sense of convention to ban forevermore the use of Agent
Orange which contains dioxin, just like we are in an effort to
ban chemical and biological substances in warfare?
Mr. Palmer. Again, Mr. Chairman, I will have to get back to
you about whether there has been any discussions about that
issue. None that I am familiar with.
[The information referred to follows:]
Written Response Received from Mr. Matthew Palmer to Question Asked
During the Hearing by the Honorable Eni F.H. Faleomavaega
There is no need to take such a step. The Department of Defense
reports that Agent Orange was last produced in 1969 and last used on
April 15, 1970, when the Department of Defense terminated all uses of
Agent Orange in Vietnam. In March 1972, all remaining stocks of Agent
Orange in Vietnam were shipped to Johnston Island. All remaining
``surplus'' stocks of Agent Orange in the Continental United States
were placed in storage in 1970 at the Naval Construction Battalion
Center, Gulfport, Mississippi. From May through August 1977, all stocks
of Agent Orange in Mississippi and on Johnston Island were destroyed by
at-sea incineration in the Central Pacific Ocean. Agent Orange was
never registered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency
for commercial use. It was a tactical herbicide that could be used only
in military operations.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Okay. Well, gentleman, I really
appreciate your participation. You are definitely going to see
my ugly face again if I come back in November, and we are going
to continue the dialogue.
And I realize that this is a very sensitive issue. But
sometimes, sensitivities aside, all we are trying to do is see
that we get some good answers and, hopefully, a better sense of
direction on how we can resolve this problem, not only for the
people of Vietnam but also our soldiers and many of our
veterans who were exposed to the substance. And that is
something that I am sure that in the coming months is going to
continue to be in the mix of issues that we are going to be
I notice the Department of Veterans Administration is also
looking at the Agent Orange issue again. And for those who were
also exposed to Post-Traumatic Syndrome situation with our
veterans coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and of course, our
soldiers that were also in Vietnam are still affected by this.
So, again, I want to thank both of you gentlemen for coming
this afternoon. We will definitely keep in touch.
Thank you very much. We appreciate it.
We are very honored and happy to have with us our next
panel with Dr. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong, medical doctor and
currently the director general of Ngoc Tam Hospital in Ho Chi
Minh City in Vietnam. As I mentioned earlier, he also is a
former vice speaker of Vietnam's National Assembly and
currently is a member of the U.S.-Vietnam dialogue group on
Agent Orange/dioxin. Dr. Phuong has had a distinguished career
as a medical doctor specializing in obstetrics and gynecology,
and as a former professor. My gosh, just a list that goes on
and on, having such a fantastic career and being a true hero as
a medical doctor. And we are very happy to have her come.
Also with us is Ms. Tran Thi Hoan, who is a second-
generation victim of Agent Orange. Her mother was exposed to
Agent Orange during the Vietnam war. Hoan was born without legs
and is missing her left hand. She is about to graduate from
college in Ho Chi Minh City with a degree in information
technology. She is a member of the Ho Chi Minh City chapter of
the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin.
I cannot say enough about how deeply grateful I am and
appreciative of the efforts that our two witnesses have made to
come all the way from Vietnam to share with us their testimony
and their life experience as we address the problems of Agent
Orange, what are some of the latest developments out of
Vietnam, and at least some of the things that we had discussed
earlier with Dr. Palmer and Dr. Wilson. I look forward to the
testimony of Dr. Phuong and Ms. Hoan this afternoon, and I
would like to ask Dr. Phuong to begin.
And does she need a translator?
The Interpreter. No. She can speak English herself, but I
will just help her with the questions if she cannot hear your
questions very well.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Okay.
Before we proceed, I am very honored to have along with us
this afternoon a distinguished member of our subcommittee, Dr.
Watson, a distinguished Member of Congress from the State of
California and former Ambassador to the Federated States of
Micronesia. And I would like to give her this opportunity, if
she has an opening statement to share it with us.
Ms. Watson. Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman.
And I am always appreciative when you hold these important
hearings to inquire about the recent developments in
remediation and the efforts being made to address the
continuing impact of dioxin, also known as Agent Orange, in
We know that in between 1961 and 1971, as part of Operation
Ranch Hand, 11 million to 12 million gallons of Agent Orange
were sprayed onto south Vietnam. As a result of spraying of the
agent, between 2.1 million and 4.8 million Vietnamese were
directly exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides during
the Vietnamese war.
While the damages and the effects of any war are
devastating to locals and U.S. troops alike, I believe that now
is the time to accurately assess the damage to the fullest
extent possible and accept our responsibility in dealing with
the aftermath of this act.
Although Agent Orange has long been attached to uncertainty
and controversy, I am pleased that we are seeing progress in
our relationship with the Vietnamese Government and the
nongovernmental organizations. The selfless efforts of the NGOs
are to be commended. Included are the Ford Foundation, UNICEF,
the United Nations Development Program, the Bill and Melinda
Gates Foundation, as well as the Vietnamese NGOs, and the
guests that are here on our panel today.
Over the years, in speaking with the many Vietnamese
veterans in my congressional district, exposure to Agent Orange
has caused many health issues, such as but not limited to
Hodgkin's disease, respiratory cancer in the lungs, bronchus,
the larynx, and the trachea, as well as prostate cancer and
type II diabetes. Many Vietnamese veterans in my district as
well as around the country are still feeling the effects of
Agent Orange some 40 years later.
And, Mr. Chairman, before I close, I would like to
sincerely thank you for your personal efforts championing this
issue. We so appreciate you and your tenacity.
And as you know, many agencies and nongovernment
organizations and individuals have put much time and resources
aiding the Vietnamese people to remedy the effects of the
dioxin. So continued assistance is our humanitarian
responsibility, and continued study and research is still vital
and necessary, and continued remediation efforts is simply the
right thing to do.
And so I am so pleased to see your panelists today. Let me
stop here so we can hear from them, and I yield back the
balance of my time.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Watson follows:]
Mr. Faleomavaega. I thank the gentlelady from California
for her most eloquent statement, and certainly a clear
understanding of the issues and the challenges that are before
us in dealing with this issue of Agent Orange. I appreciate
deeply her support and always her commitment in serving as a
member of this subcommittee, especially as our former
Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia, where she was
given a real deep sense of appreciation and understanding of
people living in this part of the world, where she has also had
an opportunity of visiting various countries throughout Asia.
So her exposure could not have been a better and more
fitting occasion for her to serve on this subcommittee where
she can at least have a sense of understanding and appreciating
when people coming from this part of the world, she can feel
what it means to be affected and to be exposed or to be
involved in this region.
So I thank the gentlelady, and I deeply appreciate her
So Dr. Phuong, please proceed with your testimony.
STATEMENT OF NGUYEN THI NGOC PHUONG, M.D., DIRECTOR GENERAL,
NGOC TAM HOSPITAL, HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM (FORMER VICE
SPEAKER OF THE VIETNAM NATIONAL ASSEMBLY; PRESENTLY MEMBER OF
THE U.S.-VIETNAM DIALOGUE GROUP ON AGENT ORANGE/DIOXIN)
Dr. Phuong. Honorable Chairman Faleomavaega, and Congress
Members, ladies and gentlemen. First, I would like to extend my
sincere thanks to Chairman Faleomavaega and the members of the
Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, deg. and the Global
Environment for organizing this hearing on ``Agent Orange in
Vietnam: Recent Developments in Remediation.''
I am pleased to have the opportunity to once again talk
about the urgent needs of the victims of Agent Orange in
Vietnam and what we can do together to help them.
I am testifying today as a vice president of the only
organization that represents the millions of victims of Agent
Orange in Vietnam. The Vietnamese Association of Victims of
Agent Orange/dioxin, or VAVA. Our association was founded in
2003 by a handful of victims of Agent Orange, many of whom have
now died from their Agent Orange-related illnesses.
From 2003 until today, VAVA has grown to over 300,000
members with chapters in 55 provinces and 326 districts. We
advocate for the rights of those affected by Agent Orange and
dioxin in Vietnam and internationally, and we provide direct
aid and health services by and for three generations of those
harmed by Agent Orange, dioxin and other agents.
I am a physician and scientist who worked for many years at
a big obstetrics-gynecology hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, the
Tu Du Hospital, where I witnessed the suffering of the families
having babies born with deformities related to Agent Orange and
dioxin and other toxic chemicals exposure. I am now vice
president of Ho Chi Minh City's Society for Reproductive
Medicine and standing vice president of the Association of
Obstetrician and Gynecologists with my colleagues in Vietnam as
well as in the other countries, including in the USA.
I have conducted many studies on the long-term effects of
dioxin contained in Agent Orange and in other agents sprayed
over the southern part of Vietnam during wartime and the human
health and human reproduction. The result of those numerous
studies confirm that about 4.8 million, from 2.1 million to 4.8
million Vietnamese people were directly exposed to Agent
Orange/dioxin during the wartime, with more than 3 million
suffering from illnesses. And among those 3 million, there are
about 150,000 visible children now in Vietnam alive.
Many million more Vietnamese people have been indirectly
exposed through the breast milk from the exposed mother or
through the food chain when living around the dioxin-
contaminated areas. Where the U.S. Air Force had stored barrels
of Agent Orange that we call now the hot spots, the land, soil,
sediment, fish, fowl in and around those hot spots still
contain dioxin at a very high level, from a few hundred to 1
million parts per trillion.
Dioxin can cause a wide range of illnesses, including
cancerous and other diseases and birth defects. More
tragically, these harmful effects can be transmitted to many
generations through the damage to DNA molecules and genes
caused by dioxin once it enters into the cells of the exposed
Based on the evidence of the harmful effects of the use of
Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals during wartime in
Vietnam, the International Peoples' Tribunal of Conscience in
Support of the Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin,
convened on May 15 and 16 of 2009 in Paris, concluded that all
victims of Agent Orange and dioxin should be rightfully
The Vietnamese people, similar to the American Vietnam
veterans, are subject to all the diseases and birth defects
recognized by the American Veterans Administration, the
Institutes of Medicine and the U.S. Government. More than that,
in Vietnam, we have identified many additional health problems
due to repeated exposure to dioxin at a greater scale and
during a very long period of time.
The U.S. Veterans won a legislative victory for
compensation for exposure to Agent Orange and received about
$1.5 billion per year in benefits related to the use of this
agent. However, their children and grandchildren, who are being
born with dioxin-related birth defects, do not yet receive any
assistance. We support the U.S. veterans' efforts to gain full
compensation and medical treatment for their children and
We are also aware that some of the more than 1 million
people in the Vietnamese-American community in the United
States suffer from Agent Orange and dioxin-related conditions
and are in need of health care. We hope that this will be
provided to them.
About the victims in Vietnam. The Vietnamese Government
provides a monthly stipend of about $17 U.S. dollars for each
of the 300,000 victims. This totals up to $50 million
U.S. dollars deg.per year. VAVA has raised money,
about $20 million USA per year, to support 1 million families
of victims who are facing lives of extreme hardship and
poverty. VAVA is also conducting a survey to identify others
The Vietnam-U.S. Dialogue Group, of which I am a member,
supported by the Ford Foundation, along with UNICEF and UNDP,
has done a temporary containment of one part of Danang Airport,
one part, and that part is the dioxin contaminated. And with
the financial assistance from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
and the philanthropy, one laboratory for dioxin analysis is
being built in Hanoi.
The Dialogue Group has just released a plan of action for
the 10 coming years with a proposed $300 million U.S.
dollars deg.for cleaning dioxin-contaminated soil and
restoring damaged ecosystems and expanding services to people
with disabilities linked to dioxin and to people with other
forms of disabilities. The amount is modest as compared with
what the victims need, but the effort of the Dialogue Group is
well appreciated in Vietnam.
Beginning in 2002, the U.S. Congress and government began
to recognize the severity of the problem and to provide some
monetary assistance to Vietnam to remediate the hot spots and
help the victims in Danang. The U.S. Congress has allocated $9
million over 4 years for hot spot remediation and health
programs. So far, $2 million has been allocated to three U.S.
nongovernmental organizations for programs to support and care
for those with disabilities in Danang.
For a comparison, according to some experts, only the
cleanup and remediation just in one area of high concentration
is estimated to be $60 million. In Vietnam today, there are
still 28 hot spots and many million victims of Agent Orange and
The first generation of victims are suffering and dying
every day from cancers and other diseases related to Agent
Orange/dioxin exposures. They cannot wait any longer for the
basic treatment and care that will ease their agony. The
youngest and most fragile victims are born with the most tragic
birth defects. They cannot wait any longer for justice.
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to
respectfully suggest that you and your colleagues in the
Congress continue the work begun by the U.S. veterans groups
and other American nongovernmental organizations to decisively
heal the wounds of war for Vietnam's more than 3 million Agent
I propose that Congress agree to provide resources from
comprehensive medical services, chronic care, rehabilitation,
and educational services and facilities for Agent Orange/dioxin
victims; provide assistance for impoverished families and
caretakers of Agent Orange/dioxin victims; provide the above
resources by funding Vietnamese nongovernmental organizations,
including the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/
dioxin, to engage in these activities; provide funding to
remediate those areas in Vietnam that continue to contain high
levels of dioxin; to stop as soon as possible exposure for
people living around those hot spots so we can prevent birth
defects and diseases related to dioxin exposure for the future
generations; and, require the chemical companies who
manufactured Agent Orange to recognize their responsibility and
assist the victims.
I hope that this third hearing convened by Mr. Chairman and
the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, deg. and the
Global Environment will build on the testimony in the previous
hearings and result in action to address the agony and the
suffering the victims of Agent Orange and dioxin are
experiencing daily. We look forward to your understanding and
empathy. The pain of our victims is too great. Timely and
effective actions taken by this Congress to help victims of
Agent Orange and dioxin in Vietnam are the final step in
healing the wounds of war as our two peoples in two countries
continue to build a relationship of friendship and peace. Thank
[The prepared statement of Dr. Phuong follows:]
Mr. Faleomavaega. Thank you, Dr. Phuong.
Ms. Hoan, for her testimony.
STATEMENT OF MS. TRAN THI HOAN, AGENT ORANGE VICTIM
Ms. Hoan. First, I want to thank Chairman Faleomavaega and
Member Watson and everybody spending time to come here.
The subject of this hearing is to understand the needs of
the victims of Agent Orange. I would like to contribute to this
discussion because I am one of those victims. I would like to
share my personal experience with you today. But my experience
is not unique. I am one of hundreds of thousands of young
people whose lives have been marked by our parents' or
grandparents' exposure to Agent Orange.
I was born as you see me, without two legs and missing a
hand. I was born on December 16,1986, into a farming family in
Duc Linh district of Binh Thuan province in central Vietnam. My
mother was exposed to Agent Orange earlier when she was farming
her plot of land, which turned out to have Agent Orange
canisters buried in the soil. My older sisters and my older
brother were born without any problems, and my younger brother
was stillborn in 1988, due to an abdominal wall defect.
When I was young, it was difficult for me to play with the
other children or attend school because at that time, people
didn't understand about Agent Orange. They thought my condition
was a result of bad karma in my family.
When I was 8 years old, I met a local journalist who
suggested I go to Tu Do Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City so that I
could get better care and an education. With my parents'
encouragement, I moved to Peace Village II, the Agent Orange
center at Tu Du Hospital.
Since then, I have been living in Peace Village II. I share
the ward with 60 children suffering from the effects of Agent
Orange. Let me tell you about some of my friends who share my
home. They suffer from spinal bifida, congenital limb
deformity, multijoint stiffness, different types of syndromes,
microcephaly, hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, and others.
I also know others, such as Pham Thi Thuy Dung, who is 16
years old, and Pham Thi Linh Nhi, her younger sister, 14, and
their sufferings, but I don't know how they are classified. She
cannot speak. Dung was born in Binh Thuan province; 48 inches
in height, 53 pounds in weight, bedridden, she cannot speak.
She gets sick when there is a change in temperature. Linh Nhi
is 64 pounds and 49 inches tall, she sleeps most of the time
and suffers from nutritional deficiencies. Little Pham Thi Thuy
Linh, born 1994 without arms, now lives in Peace Village II.
She writes with her toes. Her grandpa was an ARVN soldier who
participated in the spraying of Agent Orange.
At Peace Village II, we all live together, and those of us
who are able help those who are sicker.
Some of my friends have died from their birth defects, like
Nguyen Thi Hanh, born in 1997, who had multijoint stiffness,
and died in 2007. Little Huynh Thurong Hoai, born in 1996 in Cu
Chi without a left arm and without legs, had a heart defect and
suffered from epilepsy and multideformity and died in 1999 from
total heart muscle failure. Victims of Agent Orange die every
day, and they need immediate attention and help.
The staff of the Peace Village II is loving and kind and
does their best to create a warm atmosphere for us. There are
many other children who could benefit from this treatment, but
there is not enough room for all those children who need this
kind of care. Some of the residents, like me, can go to school
and work, but others will lie in their beds until they
eventually die. All over Vietnam there are hundreds of
thousands of children like Dung and Hanh who lie at home
without access to the services available to those at Peace
I don't know what would have happened to me if I hadn't
been able to come to Peace Village II. Without legs and a hand,
it would be difficult to farm. And without education, other
jobs would be out of reach. But I was able to go through
school. I am now about to graduate from the Ho Chi Minh City
University of Foreign Languages and Information Technology with
a certificate in computer science. In fact, I took a week away
from preparing for final exams to come and testify here today.
I am considering continuing my education. I had dreamed
about being a doctor, but I don't know if my physical condition
will allow me to do this. But I am confident that I will be
able to find a way to make a contribution to my society and to
continue to help other Agent Orange victims.
I am one of the lucky ones. While I am missing limbs, my
mental functioning is fine. No one knows what other effects of
the dioxin/Agent Orange may develop in my body, but many
babies, children, and young people my age live lives of quiet
agony. They are trapped in bodies that do not work. Their brain
remains in infancy even as their bodies grow. Most of these
children have much fewer medical and rehabilitative services
than me. Most live with their families in farming communities
like the one I grew up in. Some of their parents, the
generation directly exposed to Agent Orange, are also sick with
cancer. Whatever their health, most parents of seriously
disabled victims are poor. Needing to provide constant care for
their children, they cannot work. Many must spend money they
don't have each month for medicines. Some live is substandard
Our Government does provide assistance to the most
seriously ill victims, but our country is still developing, and
the system doesn't meet all the needs. The organization that
represents individuals, the Vietnam Association for Victims of
Agent Orange/dioxin, also assists the victims. VAVA, as it is
called, is building daycare centers for young victims,
rehabilitation centers, and providing medical care and social
services. I am part of the new generation of VAVA members
around the country.
What do the victims need and want? We want those
responsible for the terrible consequences of Agent Orange to
hear our pain and then to respond as members of the human
family. The chemical manufacturers who made the Agent Orange
and the U.S. Government who sprayed and dumped it in our
country should respond to this human tragedy by doing the right
thing. This is a matter of justice and humanity.
Building more centers like Peace Village II in many regions
of Vietnam is necessary, particularly for those with severe
For those who are somewhat better off, daycare centers,
vocational and educational rehabilitation centers, and aid to
families to facilitate home care are crucial. Medical care
specifically targeted to the conditions we face, as well as
prosthetics and other services, is needed.
For our parents and grandparents exposed during the war,
treatment for their cancers and all the diseases is a
A comprehensive approach will be required to meet these
human health needs. Going along with this is the requirement
that the toxic hot spots where dioxin remains in the land and
water be cleaned up.
Agent Orange victims also want a say in how services for us
are planned and delivered. That is why our organization, VAVA,
should be central to the development of all assistance
Many youth like me were born after the war. Like other
young people, we dream of having a family, getting a job, and
having a peaceful life. But the aftermath of the war destroys
the dreams of many young Agent Orange victims in Vietnam. In
this 15th year of relations between Vietnam and the U.S., we
ask the U.S. people and their representatives to reach out your
hands in friendship and understanding.
I am aware that the children and grandchildren of U.S.
veterans exposed to Agent Orange are suffering like us. We wish
to share common experiences with them. We hope that they
receive the medical care and assistance they need.
There is a Vietnamese saying, ``Ngay mai troi lai sang,''
something like the American popular song, ``The sun will come
I hope that this hearing will be testament to the power of
hope, of dreams, and of assuring justice. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Hoan follows:]
Mr. Faleomavaega. Thank you, Dr. Phuong and Ms. Hoan, for
Without objection, the statements of all our witnesses this
afternoon will be made part of the record and any other
extraneous materials they want will be added to the record as
I would like to turn the time now to Dr. Watson for her
line of questions.
Ms. Watson. I want to thank our two witnesses for coming
here and giving us an update. My colleague and I almost 10
years ago went over to Vietnam, and we looked at some of the
victims and their rehabilitation programs.
However, many years later, and maybe Dr. Phuong can address
this, have you done the long-term studies as to what
generational effects there are? Because we are looking at 40
years later. And what are you seeing now among the new births?
Dr. Phuong. Ms. Congresswoman, yes, we do have many
studies, but the long-term follow up we do not have. But every
year, almost every year, we have a cross-sectional study on
villages in sprayed areas, so that now we follow, not very
continuously, but every year, once every year.
So we found out in, for example, Phnom Tamao, where the
spread was very heavy during wartime, and the third generation
has the same as the second generation; they also have birth
defects, they also have cancers very young, and many diseases
like their parents.
Ms. Watson. Are you seeing a reduction in these effects? Or
just generation after generation, when babies are born, you see
the same defects as you did in the first generation? I am
wondering if the spray, whatever the antibodies are, if they
wear down after a period of time. Are you still seeing the
defects as strong as they were in the first generation?
Dr. Phuong. I have many patients where the first generation
is okay, no birth defects, but the second generation, they have
cancer. But the third generation, the father and mother look
outside normal, but the father later has cancer. But now, at
the time they have the child, he is still normal, but the child
has birth defects, it is invisible, and the second child is
also invisible and the third child is also invisible. The
second generation, no visibilities. But the third generation,
there are many.
Ms. Watson. Well, you are seeing a pattern, sometimes it
skips over a generation, but it is picked up.
Dr. Phuong. Yes.
Ms. Watson. The studies that you have done, could you share
that information with us?
Dr. Phuong. Yes. It was published in many scientific
journals, like the ``Chemosphere'' in the U.K. and in the
journal of the APAA in the USA.
Ms. Watson. Let me now speak to the chair. I just
appreciate you following up the way you have done. If this
information is available, then if there is a subsequent
hearing, because I do know you have a second panel----
Mr. Faleomavaega. No. Will the gentlelady yield?
Ms. Watson. Please.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Because I think your line of questions
fits right into the most serious dialogue that I had with our
friends from the State Department and USAID. Unless I am deaf
or something, they suggested that there is no causal
relationship between dioxin and Agent Orange and the people of
Vietnam who were exposed it. And what I have come to understand
now, from the testimony of Mr. Palmer and Dr. Wilson, is that
our Government has done no scientific study on this issue.
Would you believe this? If there was a study, we don't
accept it to say that there is a causal relationship between
the deformities and abnormalities of the victims, the people
who were exposed to Agent Orange and dioxin. And I was
wondering if Dr. Phuong could help us along this line about the
scientific studies, at least to her understanding, I was a
little surprised to learn this from our friends from the
administration that we don't admit the connection between Agent
Orange and the causes of what has happened to being exposed to
Ms. Watson. Mr. Chairman, if you will yield?
Mr. Faleomavaega. Absolutely.
Ms. Watson. Dr. Phuong, you mentioned that a lot of this
information has appeared in some of the medical journals?
Dr. Phuong. Yes.
Ms. Watson. Would you expand on that, give us a sense of
time when they appeared. And after you finish, I would like to
suggest that we get a copy of her raw data.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Without objection. All materials from Dr.
Phuong's good office will be made part of the record on
anything proven in terms of any scientific studies, medical
journals, experiments that were done on a causal connection
between birth defects and exposure to Agent Orange.
Dr. Phuong. Mr. Chairman and Mrs. Watson, I would like to
provide you one detail, one more detail, that the American
Public Health Association has about 14,000 members, and they
are very informed in epidemiology and in its 2007 policy
statement on Agent Orange recognized the responsibility of the
U.S. Government and chemical companies to alleviate the harm
caused by the use of Agent Orange in recommending that the U.S.
Government and both chemical companies provide resources for
the disabled, provide medical nursing services, et cetera. So
that means that they accept the connection, the link between
Agent Orange, dioxin, and the disability and the illnesses. So
that they recommend U.S. Government and the chemical companies
because all of them are at the top of epidemiologists. I think
that you do know that. So I think it is proof that now we can
rely on, I think.
Ms. Watson. Mr. Chairman, I think in light of Dr. Phuong's
testimony, we might want to call some of them in. We can have a
subsequent hearing with the data and the epidemiology studies,
what are we doing? And since they have made the connection
between Agent Orange and dioxin and it has had a negative
effect, we need to query that.
I chair a subcommittee on procurement. And since it is the
responsibility of our Government to follow up, what are we
doing? We could hold a joint hearing, Mr. Chair, and raise
these questions with those who have received the information.
Mr. Faleomavaega. If the gentlelady will yield. I would be
more than delighted to have a joint hearing with your
subcommittee to follow up on this issue because I have now come
to realize that there is resistance from the administration and
from our Government to have any sense of admission that there
is a causal connection between Agent Orange and its effect,
especially in the substance of dioxin. That is the reason why
we are making this inquiry of why the sensitivity because for
many years our own veterans filed lawsuits against Monsanto and
Dow Jones chemical companies because they were the ones
responsible for manufacturing and producing Agent Orange. And I
believe that is where it gets a little fuzzy in terms of our
courts also came up with decisions that doesn't seem to
really--well, you know what lawyers can do with things like
this, they make you go round and round and round and still with
no clear answer.
But I would be delighted to do a joint hearing with the
Ms. Watson. And I have one more question, if I may, of Ms.
You have overcome a lot of the disabilities or handicaps. I
must commend you on your speaking of English. I could
understand everything that you were saying. So that shows that
you are someone who has gotten in there and you are fighting.
It is my hope that you will further continue, if possible, and
aid those who are suffering from the results of Agent Orange.
What services would you suggest or would you like to see us
provide to accomplish this goal to help people live, but to be
sure we will have an impact on generations yet unborn? So can
you just tell us what you see is missing that we might supply?
Mr. Faleomavaega. If it makes it easier for Ms. Hoan, she
can speak in Vietnamese and then you translate in English.
Ms. Hoan. I will try to speak by English.
Mr. Faleomavaega. All right. Whatever is easier.
Ms. Hoan. In my testimony, I think we need more centers
like Peace Village II. We need vocational and educational
rehabilitation centers, and facilitate home care and medical
care and prosthetics because Peace Village has a lot of
children that are missing a hand or a leg, so they need
prosthetics to go to school or to do something they want.
And with some other children, they need more centers to
take care of medical to help their health. And we also need
education for the victims who still have normal brain like me.
We need education for in the future we can get a job to earn
money for themselves.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Dr. Phuong, as I had mentioned earlier, I
want to get to the bottom line on the issues that we are
confronted with in terms of scientific studies that have been
conducted. I would welcome your assistance in providing for the
record any scientific studies or experiments that you are aware
of to prove that there is definitely a relationship between
what happened to Ms. Hoan as a result of the Agent Orange.
Because it seems that there is still resistance on the part of
the administration to admit the connection. And I believe this
is one of the reasons why over the years the sensitivity of the
case is to the extent that we just don't want to admit
liability or gullibility--or whatever you want to call it--to
what has happened.
And I might also add that this is just as much a tremendous
challenge even in our own country of providing proper
assistance to people with disabilities. It is a big issue even
here in America, that we have been totally inadequate in
providing assistance, even as you said, prosthetics and the
proper facilities for training, for education, for all of these
areas, even facilities to accommodate the needs of citizens
with disabilities even to go through a door or to go up a
stairway, a situation that most of us who are normal take for
granted. Even having wheelchairs, just to be mobile, to be able
to more self-sufficient.
I really would like for you to share with us a little more.
Is there any question in your mind about what dioxin and Agent
Orange have done to your people? Because I hear our friends
downtown saying we are there to help people with disabilities
regardless. But they never say they will include those
suffering from effects of Agent Orange. And I would like your
response to that.
Dr. Phuong. Mr. Chairman, I am very pleased to be able to
help a little bit about proving the link between, so after
going home, I will send you all my papers published in the U.K.
or in the U.S. concerning the dioxin and the health effects.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Could you please do that? I would deeply
appreciate it. Like I said, this is the third hearing that we
have held. And the purpose of the hearing is to establish a
firm record, establish a record with sufficient data,
information and evidence to show that there is not only a
connection, but the question following then, what are we doing
about it in giving assistance to your people? This is what we
are trying to do.
The contradiction of this issue is the fact that my own
Government, after years and years of resistance about our
veterans or soldiers who were exposed--presumably exposed to
Agent Orange, is that we now have established a policy for any
soldier like myself who served in Vietnam during that 10-year
period. The Veterans Administration says there may be a
connection between our illnesses and exposure to Agent Orange
while we were in Vietnam, and yet we don't have to prove there
is a connection. So this is where I am getting somewhat of a
very interesting policy being formulated by my Government, not
only because of our bilateral relationship, but internally, for
the treatment of our own soldiers where we have had to take a
lawsuit, had to file a lawsuit on this matter.
Ms. Watson. Will the chairman yield?
Mr. Faleomavaega. Please.
Ms. Watson. I think our new administration would be more
sensitive to what we are proposing and the relationship between
Agent Orange and dioxin and the generational defects as a
result. And so I think we ought to make a real effort, after we
have our second hearing with the--I think we ought to have the
chemical companies sitting at that table----
Mr. Faleomavaega. If the gentlelady will yield?
Ms. Watson. I will yield.
Mr. Faleomavaega. I would love to have a joint hearing with
you sometime in September to bring people from DOD, the medical
people, some of our veterans who have been actively engaged in
this issue. This is just an internal matter, Dr. Phuong, that
we have to do, but please bear with us in doing this.
Absolutely, I would love to do this.
But I do want to say to Ms. Hoan, I sincerely hope that the
sun will come up tomorrow.
Dr. Phuong, you mentioned that there was a conference held
in Paris. Was this a medical conference discussing the issue of
Agent Orange? You had mentioned this in your testimony. Can you
elaborate a little further on that?
Dr. Phuong. Mr. Chairman, you are asking about the
comprehensive medical care?
Mr. Faleomavaega. Yes.
Dr. Phuong. Yes. We have a lot of disabled, so that we need
to set up many centers. We have Peace Village. Peace Village is
in Vietnam. Each of them take care of only 50 or 60, so that we
cannot take care of as many as possible because we have too
many victims, disabled children. So that we wish to have more
centers for the disabled children due to Agent Orange.
And then we would like to have a network of the people who
can do the rehabilitation, not only for the movement of the
limbs, but also for speech and for the other sensory organs,
and also for the mental retardation. And then we wish to have
enough facilities for making diagnosis of birth defects very
early during pregnancy. And also, we wish to have enough
facilities to detect very early the cancers, many kind of
In my country, in the big cities, in Hanoi, in Ho Chi Minh
City and Da Nang and some more cities we can have such a
facility. But in district or in the remote areas where the
dioxin is still there, we cannot have a network reaching down
to the district or community. So we wish to have more
facilities for detect cancers, for detect birth defects at a
very early stage.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Dr. Phuong and Ms. Hoan, again, I cannot
thank you both enough for traveling all the way from Vietnam to
come and testify before this subcommittee. Please rest assured
that our keen interest is not lessened in any way, and that I
am just very happy that the gentlelady from California and I
are going to continue to do the work.
The situation now is more of an internal matter so that we
get a better settlement on this issue with our own
administration and our own leaders to see what we need to do
from our side. Because I honestly believe that the mindset of
how we are looking at this issue for all these years has not
been positive. But I do believe that if we continue pushing the
matter and see that the proper facts and data and information
on this matter will be such that not only will be as a matter
to better inform the American public, but also our colleagues
here in the Congress.
So with that, I do want to sincerely thank you both for
being here. I wish you Godspeed on your travels back to
Vietnam. The gentlelady, unfortunately, decided to do better
things than being a Member of Congress. She has decided to move
on in her brilliant career and she will not be with us because
she has decided to retire. But like I said, Dr. Phuong,
assuming that I get reelected in November, you will see my ugly
face again pushing this issue, all right?
So thank you both. The hearing is adjourned.
Dr. Phuong. Mr. Chairman, Hoan told me before the hearing
that she wishes to have a photo with you and Mrs. Watson. Is it
possible, Mr. Chairman?
Mr. Faleomavaega. Better yet, come to my office. We will
have a photo here, and then we will go to my office. I am going
to cook a pig there for you.
The hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 4:40 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
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