Never in a million years did I think that our Government could have been responsible for our ill health. In 2015, I saw a blurb about the possibility of Agent Orange being in Panama, a lightbulb went off in a flash! My husband had been seriously ill from complications of Diabetes II for over 24 years. Diabetes does not run in his family and he was in great shape, 180 pounds and 5’11”, when it was discovered that he was diabetic II at age 42. I read on the Veterans site that Diabetes II was a presumptive disease if you served in a country where Agent Orange was present.
I started my research that day! I joined a FB page called, Agent Orange in Panama FB page, to see what they knew and contributed information as I uncovered the truth. As I was building the case for my husband, I started formulating the mounds of information into something I would be able to speak from when I went in front of the VA. After giving the VA proof that Agent Orange was shipped to Panama, which the VA flat-out denied, I knew that they are covering up this fact. But why?
There were many chemicals which have been tested and used repeatedly for years in the Panama Canal Zone from the time of the Canal being built in the early 1900s until the U.S. left. There are numerous Government official reports showing many different types of herbicides/pesticides/fungicides shipped and used in the Canal Zone over the years. I have written a book proving this fact called The Travels of Orange, available on Amazon.com.
As seen on the U.S. Exports List, 2,4-D & 2,4,5-T (Agent Orange) was shipped to Panama and used in Panama for over 20 years. And as seen on these shipping records from November 1973, this 5120620, 2,4-D & 2,4,5-T was the exact same mixture used in Vietnam, as the State Department verified to Congress in the 1973 Hearing, referenced in my book. As seen on the various reports quoted in the Travels of Orange, many of the pesticides that are now known to cause great harm to the environment and humans were used routinely for decades in the Panama Canal Zone: chlordane, silvex, paraquat, diquat, gramaxone, copper sulphate, endothall, DDT, BHC, trichlorobenzene, sodium arsenite, pentachlorophenol, sodium flurosilicate, copper ammonium fluoride, aldrin, dieldrin, heptachlor, PCBs, arsenics, lead, mercury, and many others. As seen on the Termite report by the USDA, referenced in my book, many of these were routinely used in Panama Canal Zone. And as seen on the U.S. Army Aberdeen’s group Pesticide Monitoring Report 9.13 lbs per acre of pesticides were found in their analysis at Fort Davis while we lived there in 1976. This was a very toxic finding according to their own analysis of toxicity by using many pesticides in the same area. In the area we were living at that very moment!
Unfortunately, the Veterans Administration is very broken. For years and years, veterans have applied for exposure to toxins while serving in Panama, but have been flat-out denied. The VA is supposed to help the veteran prove their case. Instead the VA stamps out denials which all say there is no proof that Agent Orange was ever shipped, stored or used in Panama. The U.S. shipping records prove otherwise. And yet, the VA has failed to find this evidence. Why would the Government not want to help the men and women who served them faithfully?
For several decades, the USDA/DOI/HEW, who knew so little about how these pesticides could affect the environment and humankind, continued their use. When the EPA took over pesticide control in 1970, they knew only what the USDA/DOI/HEW gave them, which came in the form of a report in 1972, referenced in The Travels of Orange. Prior to 1970, when the EPA took over pesticide registration, the responsibility of pesticide registration and use fell to the three secretaries of HEW, DOI and the USDA, under the War Research Service. Between 1943 and 1970, there were no rules.
The USDA “Using Phenoxy Herbicides Effectively,” issued May 1962, describes how to use 2,4,5-T effectively. The USDA and 2,4,5-T were both in Panama in 1962. The U.S. Exports Lists shows in black and white that 2,4,5-T was introduced into the environment in the Canal Zone as early as January 1959.
Dr. Wayne Dwernychuk, Senior Environmentalist and World Renown AO Expert, stated in a letter in support of my findings of Agent Orange in Panama and the U.S. Army testing for Agent Orange in Panama, the following:
“Toxic chemicals referred to here may have been a 50/50 mixture of the herbicides 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T, otherwise commonly known as Agent Orange (AO), and/or 2,4,5-T in isolation from other herbicides. The term ‘Orange Herbicide’, as labelled by the U.S. military, was a 50/50 formulation of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T to definite specifications of the US military. During the manufacture of 2,4,5-T, the toxic chemical 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) was generated and was initially an unknown toxin in this herbicide. By the mid 1970’s the presence of TCDD in 2,4,5-T was commonly known. However, there is evidence that TCDD was known as a by-product of the 2,4,5-T manufacturing process back to the mid 1960’s. Herbicides were also used for perimeter spraying and reducing vegetation along right of ways and roadsides in the PCZ.
Table 2 titled Schedule B Commodity by Country Domestic/Merchandise seen here: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000497548 clearly shows the transport and exportation of the herbicides 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T to Panama 1973-1977. It is unclear whether these two herbicides were, in fact, in an Agent Orange composition (as defined by US military specifications) as a shipping commodity, or they were shipped separately. They may have been mixed on site in the PCZ, or were, conceivably, applied separately. However, with respect to toxicological properties, it makes no matter whether these two herbicides were mixed or not. The very fact that 2,4,5-T was used is sufficient grounds to conclude that TCDD was applied wherever 2,4,5-T was used as a vegetation control agent. The TCDD content of the 2,4,5-T varied over time, but regardless, it was present in this herbicide and introduced to the PCZ environment. Unfortunately for service personnel, there were no attempts, to my knowledge, to ascertain the TCDD content of 2,4,5-T used in the PCZ or, for that matter, in PCZ soils or any other environmental media. TCDD in soil can remain a toxic component of the environment for over 100 years (Paustenbach, et al., 1992).”
For decades the government denied the existence of Agent Orange in Okinawa too. Just recently FOIA Documents Revealed Agent Orange Dioxin, Toxic Dumps, Fish Kills on Okinawa Base, referenced in my book:
“For years the Pentagon refused or hid purposely the evidence that Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals were used on Okinawa.”
It does appear to all Panama Veterans that the VA is purposely hiding evidence of Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals used in the Panama Canal Zone. It is very sad indeed that veterans have been denied for so many years but were exposed to these “hot spots” all over the world. Veterans were willing to lay down their lives for the United States, but the U.S. Government is not willing to even listen to those that have been contaminated at their own government’s hands.
The purpose of this research is to uncover the secrets that lie in the jungle of Panama so that those who have suffered the last 40 years can seek justice from the Government they served. I am hopeful with this proof in hand, many veterans will be able to someday prove a connection of exposure and their ill health from serving in the Panama Canal Zone. Our goal is to move together as a group to get the attention of Congress to have Panama added to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). You can join me in this movement towards this goal. The VA is very broken. The VA should have found this documentation which proves that TCDD was introduced into the Panama Canal Zone and helped all the veterans who have applied for benefits decades ago.
If you know Veterans/families/civilians who were stationed in the Panama Canal Zone, please have them register on our registration page, PCZVA.com. This is a national association to bring awareness that those who served in Panama were living in toxic surroundings and deserve to be heard!
As for civilians like myself who have been harmed by living in such a toxic place, I will continue, with your support, to work towards seeking justice for those harmed. Facts speak louder than words. Together there is no stopping us! The research will continue. If you have time on your hands, a computer, and the desire to get to the truth, please contact me to join me in this research.