Online Program

From agent orange to e-waste recycling: Chemical hazards in Vietnam

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 3:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Arnold Schecter, MD, MPH, University of Texas, School of Public Health at Dallas, Dallas, TX
From the 1960s on, toxic chemicals of concern in Vietnam focused on dioxin from Agent Orange. It was sprayed as a defoliant over approximately 13% of southern Vietnam but was not sprayed in the north-this ended in 1971. Contamination among Vietnamese people, food and the environment has been of concern since the spraying. Elevated levels of dioxin from Agent Orange in humans, wildlife, food and the environment was reported by several groups including ours beginning in the 1970s. This continued to be documented into the 2000s. Cleanup and thermal degradation of soil from dioxin 'hot spots' with elevated TCDD has begun at Da Nang airbase; if this is found to be an economical and safe way of removing dioxins this method may be used elsewhere in Vietnam. Multiple sources of funds are now being used for this purpose, including some from the US government through the Agency for International Development (AID) to the Committee 33 in Vietnam. Other sources of toxic chemical contamination are now being found in Vietnam. Many shallow wells are contaminated with arsenic, as one example. Elevated levels of dioxins-other than TCDD, the one dioxin characteristic of Agent Orange, and the closely related dibenzofurans-are sometimes detected in humans. Certain brominated flame retardants, compounds known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), have been found at elevated levels in the blood of some electronic waste recycling workers compared to the general population. Now that other organics in addition to dioxins have been found, and metals such as arsenic, known to be toxic has been reported in water from shallow wells in Vietnam, it is important to consider the health effects of other chemicals in addition to dioxins. Methods of attempting to reduce body burden of dioxins are now being tested in Vietnam. These include one method similar to a Scientology approach with heat, exercise, high doses of vitamins, a good diet, no alcohol containing beverages, no cigarettes as parts of this regime. To date, there are no medically or scientifically accepted methods of reducing levels of dioxins in humans. The approach being tried now in Vietnam will be interesting to study to determine if it will lower dioxin body burden, or whether it too will prove to be clinically ineffective.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Environmental health sciences
Occupational health and safety
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs

Learning Objectives:
Discuss sources of chemical contamination in Vietnam dating from the Vietnam War to present. Describe a brief overview of remediation efforts in Vietnam and identify several sources of funding.

Keyword(s): Agent Orange, Vietnam

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have over 30 years of experience in doing research in Vietnam and dioxins.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

Back to: 3392.0: War and Its Consequences