Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fort McClellan - Monsanto - Agent Orange: Did Army service make them ill?

Did Army service make them ill?

Soldiers on the 42,286-acre base were located just miles from the Monsanto Corp. chemical manufacturing plant, which discharged tons of polychlorinated biphenyls -- PCBs -- into Anniston's air, soil and water for decades, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Monsanto's release of the PCBs made Anniston the most toxic place in the nation, say scientists, who have discovered increased rates of illnesses among the city's residents. PCB exposure is linked to neurological and reproductive problems, higher rates of cancer and autoimmune diseases in humans.

Frasier, 60, is fighting for answers. She is lobbying national leaders to support a Fort McClellan Health Registry Act, which would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a list of service members who were on the base between 1935 and 1999, and examine their health records for signs of toxic exposure. Rep. Paul Tonko plans to introduce the bill to Congress in a few weeks.

The pair do not blame the military for their problems. But they want to know what caused their issues, and don't understand why the Army or EPA never informed the Fort McClellan population of known environmental concerns.

In addition to the pollution caused by Monsanto, Army operations around Fort McClellan, including the incineration of nerve gas and the storage and use of chemical munitions, turned the base into a hazardous waste site that the military is still cleaning, the EPA says.

The military experimented with Agent Orange, a toxic defoliant used to clear vegetation from the jungles of Vietnam, at Fort McClellan, and stored it near the women's barracks, says Paul Sutton, former longtime chairman of the Vietnam Veterans of America's National Agent Orange/Dioxin Committee. Sutton estimates that about 10,000 veterans, mostly women, were exposed to toxic chemicals at the base during the Vietnam era.

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