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Agent Orange Town Hall To Discuss Toxic Exposures For Vets

"Patches" is one of the C-123 cargo planes used to spray Agent Orange. It's now on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
Lewis Wallace

When Stephen Ratcliffe went to Vietnam, he says he knew what he signed up for, but he didn’t know anything about Agent Orange.

“I remember seeing the spray planes flying over,” Ratcliffe says. “But they told me it was mosquito repellent, but you never know.”

Agent Orange, which the U.S. sprayed as a defoliant during the war, contains a toxin that’s since been associated with various diseases in adults as well as birth defects in children. It’s difficult to trace cause and effect, but anyone with so-called boots on the ground in Vietnam is eligible to apply for benefits.

An open forum this Saturday in Fairborn will share info with veterans who think they’ve been exposed to Agent Orange or other toxins. Ratcliffe is with Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) out of Enon, and he says this Saturday’s forum will address vets’ questions about toxic exposures—and not just Vietnam vets, but vets from any war that think they might have been exposed. Dr. Tom Berger, a toxic exposure specialist and veteran, will be joined on a panel by Dr. Elena Christofides, an endocrinologist from Columbus.

Ratcliffe and VVA are pushing for Congress to pass a bill called the Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2015, which would require the Veterans Administration to create a department for research into toxic exposures and their potential effects on vets and their families.

“We knew the risks when we went to war,” Ratcliffe says. “But we didn’t expect that war to affect our kids and grandkids.”

There will probably be interest from a newly-eligible group, vets who flew the C-123 spray planes in the U.S. for over a decade after those planes came back from Vietnam. The town hall is from 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at the Holiday Inn in Fairborn.

Lewis Wallace is WYSO’s managing editor, economics reporter and substitute host. Follow him @lewispants.

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