[Ed: While the AP news story is
focused on Agent Orange, the researchers at the University of Texas-Houston are interested
in any health problems that may have been caused by living in the Canal Zone/Rep. of
Panama. This includes exposure to DDT]
The following was taken from the Associated Press wire service and appeared in a Dallas newspaper on August 20. If you or members of your family have concerns about health issues that you think might have a connection to having lived in Panama at one time, please consider being included in a survey conducted by researchers at the School of Public Health at the University of Texas - Houston. Dr. Deborah Del Junco and her assistant, Kathy Pitts, attended the Panama Canal Society Reunion in Orlando this year and were able to distribute survey sheets to hundreds of members who attended the reunion. If you were unable to be there, I encourage you to write them for a survey sheet and become part of the initial research. E-mail is:
Deborah J del Junco, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology
University of Texas-Houston
School of Public Health
P O Box 20l86 RAS W-622
Houston, Texas 77225
Report: Agent Orange in Panama
DALLAS (AP) - Secret U. S tests of Agent Orange in Panama during the Vietnam War may have exposed many residents and military personnel to potentially lethal chemicals, The Dallas Morning News reported today.
Hundreds of barrels of the toxic herbicide were shipped to Panama during the l960s and l970s, then sprayed on jungles in an effort to simulate the battlefield conditions of Southeast Asia, the newspaper reported, citing documents and witness accounts.
Both Panamanians and Americans may have been exposed.
The U. S. Southern Command, the operational authority in Panama, said it was unaware of any tests involving Agent Orange there.
"Our bottom line on our side is that we have no knowledge that it happened," said Raul Duany, a Southern Command spokesman. "We have no evidence that Agent Orange was actually sprayed in Panama."
"If it was," he said, "it wouldn't pose a threat today because it should have dissipated by now."
The defoliant contains the highly toxic chemical dioxin.
No one knows how many people suffered from the effects of Agent Orange, which was sprayed by U. S. planes during a l0-year period to strip away cover from North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops and their convoys.
One American veteran who served in Panama from l968 to l97l told the Morning News he witnessed the spraying at a test site close to the Panama Canal and near a popular beach, a recreation center, a sporting club and a lake that supplied Panama City's drinking water.
Government leaders in Panama have long suspected that lethal chemical weapons and herbicides were used there. The country is already seeking as much as $500 million from the U. S. military in damages and cleanup costs following years of ammunition and weapons tests.
Use of toxic herbicides has been identified by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a factor in the deaths of at least three U. S. servicemen stationed in Panama in the l960s and l970s, said Bill Russo, an attornedy for the Washington-based Vietnam Veterans of America.
Survivors of the servicemen are receiving service-related benefits as a result of their husbands' exposure, the newspaper said.
September 11, 1999
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