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Use and effects of chemical agents on Australian personnel in Vietnam - Royal Commission (Hon. Mr Justice P. Evatt) - Final report, dated 31 July 1985 - Report - Volume 8 - Conclusions, recommendations and epilogue

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The Parliament o f the Commonwealth o f Australia


Commissioner: The Hon. Mr Justice P. Evatt, DSC, LLB

Final Report—July 1985

Volume 8: Conclusions, Recommendations and Epilogue

Presented 22 August 1985 Ordered to be printed 19 September 1985

Parliamentary Paper No. 295/1985


Volume 8: Conclusions, Recommendations and Epilogue


Commissioner: The Hon. Mr Justice Phillip Evatt DSC, LLB.

A Judge of the Federal Court of Australia


July 1985


Australian Government Publishing Service Canberra 1985

© Commonwealth of Australia 1985

ISBN 0 644 04339 3 Set of Volumes ISBN 0 644 04347 4 Report Volume Eight

Printed by Canberra Publishing and Printing Co.. Fyshwick, A.C.T.


Commissioner: The Hon. Mr Justice Phillip Evatt DSC

G.P.O Bon 4S42 Sydney. N S W Jot) | Telephone: (021 239 h222

Your Excellency,

Secretary: Mr B.D. Meade

31 July 1985

In accordance with Letters Patent issued to me on 13 May 1983, 27 June 1984, 3 August 1984 and 23 April 1985, I have the honour to present to you the Final Report of my inquiry.

I believe that the Report complies with those Letters Patent and that my task is therefore completed.

Yours sincerely


His Excellency the Right Honourable Sir Ninian Stephen, A.K., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., K.B.E. Governor-General and Commander-in-chief Government House CANBERRA A.C.T. 2600

File Ref.:







1.3 History of Chemical Use 1.4 The Vietnam War

1.5 Herbicide Use in Vietnam 1.6 Geography of Vietnam 1.7 Use of Insecticides 1.8 1.11 1.12 CHAPTER CHAPTER





Controversy in USA The Controversy in Australia The Commission's Approach II STANDARD OF PROOF








1 1

7 8


11 12 15 16

18 21

23 27 29 32


35 38 39

44 57



(N (N m ro in





Introduction Standard of Proof Ascertainment of Claims Exposure



Toxicology and Safe Doses Health Effects General


VII Health Effects, Reproductive Outcomes and Birth Anomalies


VIII Health Effects, Cancer


IX Health Effects, Mental


X Mortality XI Class Action XII Status of W A A XIII Interim Report and S .47


XIV Benefits and Treatment


XV Conclusions and Recommendations Epilogue




Conclusions and Recommendations

The conclusions of this Commission have been stated in detail in the discrete topic areas. The first section of this volume has been designed for reproduction and free distribution as a pamphlet.

It is a summary. It is broadly stated and in the broad it accurately states the Commission's findings and

conclusions. Summaries however cannot be rigorously precise. The scientific reader and the scholar should rely on the text of the individual chapters.








A respectful adaptation


No grievance should ever arise in the

Commonwealth ... but when complaints are freely heard, deeply considered, and

speedily reformed, then is the utmost bound of civil liberty attained that wise men look for.

John Milton, Areopagitica

Although Agent Orange was but one of the chemical agents

about which this Royal Commission was concerned. it was

that which, in the main, triggered the Inquiry; that which

undoubtedly has been the greatest cause of anxiety to

Vietnam veterans and their families regarding possible

effects of such chemical agents on them and their

children; and that which has occupied the greatest portion

of the Commission's investigative time and deliberations.

The tragedy of the Agent Orange controversy is that

Vietnam veterans were doubly vulnerable.

First, they were raised in the era of environmental

upsurge, when pollution in general and chemicals in

particular were "to blame". The "natural" was better than

the "unnatural" and use of the "artificial" or "synthetic"

was said to be heinous, greedy and usually capitalistic

and multi-national as well. This bias is convincingly if

somewhat over-aggressively rebutted by Edith Efron in "The 2 Apocalyptics".


Second, conflict had taken its toll on many of them, as it

had on their fathers and their shell-shocked

grandfathers. But their forebears came home heroes, the

conquerors of Kaiser-Bill, Hitler and Tojo: their

wounds, visible and invisible, could be worn with pride.

We sent the cream of our youth, with strong value systems

and a belief in themselves and those values, to Vietnam.

We trained them to kill men. They learnt by necessity to

kill women and children. They saw in the co-incidence of

contest and village home-life (which is guerilla warfare)

and in like fighting like, the futility of the conflict

and of their participation in that conflict.

When they returned to Australia they were ostracized by

many and any sense of purpose in their sacrifice


Is it any wonder that they felt poisoned?






1) On the 13th May 1983 the Hawke Government appointed

a Royal Commissioner, Mr Justice Phillip Evatt DSC

LLB, to inquire into the Use and Effects of Chemical

Agents, including Agent Orange, on Australian

Personnel in Vietnam.

2) The Vietnam Veterans' Association of Australia

(WAA) was granted leave to appear and was

represented by Queen's Counsel and Junior Counsel.

It was granted most substantial legal aid to permit

it to prepare and present its case, which it did.

3) The only chemical company to appear continuously was

Monsanto (Australia) Limited.

4) The RSL chose not to appear although it put views to

the Commission in writing.



1) Concern was expressed in the USA (and to a limited

extent in Australia) about chemical use and

"chemical warfare" during the Vietnam War.

2) In late 1978 the concern in the USA focused on the

possible health effects of Agent Orange.

3) This spread by media to Australia.


1) Use of chemicals for pest and weed control, and

their distribution by aircraft began as early as

1920 and has been continuous to date.

2) Such use in war has existed since 1936, and occurred

in World War IT, Korea and Malaya as well as in




Australia joined the American intervention in Vietnam as

an ally and subject to ultimate USA policy and control,

in 1965.


1) The vegetation of Vietnam hampered the allied war


2) President J.F. Kennedy ordered the use of herbicides

on 30 November 1961.

3) The herbicides used were of outstanding

effectiveness and had been in continuous uneventful

and apparently safe agricultural use for 15 years or


4) The defoliation program helped the allied war effort.

5) The Vietcong distributed propaganda about "chemical

warfare" and toxic effects.


6) Ill-effects amongst the offspring of heavily dosed

female mice were observed in 1968 and widely

publicised in 1970.


1) The location and climate of Vietnam made pest

control and mosquito control in particular

absolutely vital for the survival of Australian


2) Malaria was endemic and rife in Vietnam.


1) Huge quantities of malathion and small quantities of

other insecticides were used in all zones of

operation by all US and Australian troops.

2) This was absolutely necessary.

3) Malathion was chosen because it had been thoroughly

tested by the World Health Organisation and found to

be very safe.



1) Opponents of the war and ecologists opposed the use

of herbicides from the mid 1960s on.

2) Intensive research confirmed the effectiveness of

the herbicides but indicated no toxic hazard to


3) Agitation nonetheless continued.

4) The Vietnamese newspapers began reporting increases

in birth defects and this was taken up by the media

in the USA.

5) The alleged increases could not be substantiated by

the Department of Defense or independent inquiry.

6) A contaminant in Agent Orange, TCDD. confused the

issue. since it has toxic effects at quite small

doses and it had been shown to increase ill-effects

in the offspring of heavily dosed female mice.

7) All substances are toxic if the dose is high enough.


8) There were no claims for chemical caused disability

until 1978.

9) An unqualified veterans' counsellor (Maude de

Victor) from observation of one case, came to

believe that Agent Orange caused cancer.

10) She then began to blame Agent Orange for other

non-specific symptoms as well. .

11) She asked those who seemed disturbed "Were you

exposed to Agent Orange?",and most said "I guess so".

12) A television special by Bill Kurtis, "Agent Orange -

Vietnam's Deadly Fog", took up De Victor's claims,

and spread them far and wide.

13) Hundreds of claims resulted and a Congressional

Committee was set up.



1) The magazine. Rolling Stone, brought the controversy

to Australia in August 1978.

2) The Australian press took up the story,

sensationalising it.

3) Veteran groups were formed.

4) A bachelor of science, John Evans. became chief

apologist for the Agent Orange theory and scientific

adviser to WAA.

5) Vietnam veterans organisations were formed to

pursue Agent Orange claims. Later other chemicals

were also blamed.

6) The controversy continued and the Australian

Government set up a number of studies to test the


7) Friction developed between W A A and the Department

of Veterans' Affairs.

8) W A A was not happy with the scientific studies.


9) W A A "fell out" with the RSL.

10) Lobbying for a Royal Commission began and


11) After extensive lobbying prior to the 1983 Federal

election this Commission was appointed in May 1983.


1) Those Assisting the Commission sought at the outset

the assistance of W A A 1s scientific adviser, John

Evans, which was freely given.

2) It also sought the assistance of USA veterans groups.

3) Documents filed in the US class action were obtained.

4) University and other data bases were tapped.

5) World Health Organisations and other international

bodies were consulted.

6) Expert scientific consultants were retained.


7) The Commission took evidence from experts selected

by W A A . by the Commission itself and by Monsanto

(Australia) Limited.

8) It also travelled to Vietnam, USA and Europe to

examine in detail scientific studies there.

9) It gathered almost 2000 exhibits, a library of books

and other source documents as well as almost 7000

pages of transcript.

10) It consulted directly in informal sessions with 2000

individual veterans and members of their families.

11) Complaints about the conduct of the Department of

Veterans' Affairs were closely analysed.

12) Some aspects of the Repatriation legislation were


13) The effectiveness of the Vietnam Veterans

Counselling Service was assessed.

14) Birth defects. health effects. mortality.

psychological impact and cancer were examined in

acute detail.




1) The Commission adopted the normal civil onus of

proof, i.e. it needed to be comfortably satisfied

that a fact or connection was established before it

found that it existed.

2) It kept in mind those sections of the Repatriation

Act dealing with the standard and so-called onus of

proof required in determinations.

3) Appropriate scientific principles have also been





1) The Commission sought allegations and complaints

from not only the W A A but also from any veteran or

other person.

2) 2000 individual veterans or family members were

interviewed throughout Australia.

3) 150 written submissions from individuals and

organisations were received and considered.

4) The W A A lodged three written submissions (including

a final submission) as well as calling oral

evidence. In addition, Mr Thompson was permitted to

make final verbal submissions in respect to certain





1) The Commission considered in detail the chemical

agents used, where they were used. why they were

used and how they were used.

2) It assessed the ways in which Australians could have

been exposed to them.

3) It assessed the doses from the likely exposures.

4) It analysed aerial exposures, incidents at Nui Dat,

helicopter missions, perimeter spraying and the

spraying of unit lines.

5) It analysed exposure by travel through defoliated


6) It analysed exposure by food, water and soil.

7) It consulted the world's best scientists about those



8) It asked those scientists to assess the dose levels

likely from such exposures.

9) Toxic doses of the most poisonous ingredient of

Agent Orange (TCDD) almost invariably cause a

distinctive skin condition called chloracne.

10) No Australian suffered chloracne.

11) Any dose of TCDD received in Vietnam would have been

lower than that received in industrial accidents,

where no long term effects have been found.

12) The Commission concludes that:

(i) contrary to popular belief, only a very

limited number of Australian servicemen were

ever directly exposed to ' colour-coded1

herbicides such as Agent Orange; even the most

direct likely exposure would not have produced

an absorbed toxic dose of the most toxic


(ii) all servicemen were indirectly exposed in one

way or another but the dose level resulting


from such indirect exposure or exposures is so

minute that it may, without doubt, be ignored;

(iii) all servicemen were exposed to insecticides

which, far from causing adverse health

effects, prevented health problems which may

have otherwise arisen in the Vietnam


13) In short, the Commission concludes that the exposure

of Australians to chemical agents did not produce

dosage levels which would be likely to cause any

long-term health effects.




1) Toxicology is the science of poisons and poisoning.

2) One important function of toxicology is safety


3) The science is first and foremost concerned with


4) Doses can get into the body by being swallowed,

inhaled, injected or absorbed through the skin.

5) Toxicologists are expert at working out safe doses,

called no-effect levels.

6) Safe doses for the constituents of Agent Orange have

been worked out for the Commission by the world's

best experts.

7) Calculations show that no Australian would have

received a toxic dose of any constituent of Agent





1) The Commission sought funding from the Government

for a thorough and scientifically valid study of the

health of a substantial sample of Vietnam veterans

and controls.

2) This was refused.

3) The W A A selected and called 10 Vietnam veteran

witnesses as typical of veterans problems caused by


4) Nothing in their evidence established or even

suggested a relationship between exposure to

chemical Agents in Vietnam and adverse health


5) Vietnam veterans are significantly healthier than

the Australian male population.

6) They are slightly more likely than their National

Service peers who did not go to Vietnam to suffer


from circulatory disease and diseases of the

digestive system.

7) This is probably connected with stress, cigarette

smoking and alcohol consumption.

8) These have probably been increased, inculcated or

exacerbated by Vietnam Service.

9) There are fewer Vietnam veterans in prison than

expected for the general population.

10) The work of AATTV was considered.

11) There is no neurotoxic effect operating on

veterans. That is to say their brains and nervous

systems have not been organically damaged by

chemical agents used in Vietnam.



1) It was alleged that exposure to Agent Orange or

other chemical agents in Vietnam had resulted in

birth anomalies amongst the offspring of Vietnam


2) Infertility, miscarriage and stillbirths were also


3) The Commission used scientific principles as the

basis for its approach.

4) Between 3% and .10% of all babies are born with some

defect, the accurate percentage depending on what

you count and when you count it. For example a

minor defect. an extra nipple, is often not

discovered until puberty.

5) A study was done of more than 8500 infants with

birth defects, carefully matched with the same

number of controls. The babies with birth defects

were no more likely to have a Vietnam veteran for a

father (127) than the healthly babies (123).



6) No association between length or year of service and

birth defects was found (which you would expect if

chemical agents were to blame).

7) No excess of birth defects or other untoward

outcomes were found amongst the US group most

heavily exposed to Agent Orange, the Ranch Handers


8) No excess of birth defects or other untoward

outcomes were found in a major study comparing

Vietnam veterans with non veterans in Atlanta

Georgia, USA (The CDC Study).

9) No reliable study shows any association between

exposure of the father to chemicals and untoward

birth outcomes.

10) Biologically such an association is highly

implausible and has never been established.

11) The hypothesis that exposure of fathers to chemicals

in Vietnam caused birth defects in children

conceived in Australia is fanciful.


12) No evidence that veterans children in fact have more

defects than the general population was called or

adhered to.

13) No evidence that infertility, miscarriage or

stillbirth rates were higher than the general

population was called or adhered to.

14) Such untoward reproductive outcomes as have occurred

are totally and certainly unconnected with the

chemical agents used in Vietnam.

15) Where the consequences to veterans described in

Chapter IX have occurred, there may be health

consequences to children related to family upset.



1) Cancer is a disease of uncontrolled cell growth also

called malignant neoplasm.

2) Repeated claims have been made that cancer rates are

higher amongst Vietnam veterans.

3) The cause of the "higher rates" has been said to be

Agent Orange and latterly, other chemical agents.

4) About one in four Australians will die of cancer.

5) Cancer is not only a disease of the old.

6) If tobacco caused cancers are omitted, cancer rates

are not increasing.

7) Cancer death rates for Vietnam veterans are lower

than the general male population.

8) The cancer rates of veteran and non veteran National

Servicemen are virtually identical (.99).



9) The precise mechanisms of cancer are unknown.

10) There is no reliable evidence that the chemicals in

Agent Orange cause cancer in humans.

11) The Commission heard evidence from experts of world

renown in the field of chemically caused cancer.

They are unanimous that at Vietnam dose levels the

chemical agents used will not cause any real or

detectable increase in cancer amongst Australian


12) With one exception, (the anti-malarial drug,

dapsone), the chemicals used are biologically

unlikely to cause cancer in humans in any event.

13) Service in Vietnam has not and will not cause cancer

amongst veterans.

XV-2 2




1) There have been mental well-being casualties amongst

veterans of all wars.

2) Homer describes the symptoms of the ancient Greek

hero Ulysses in terms very similar to descriptions

of those in 20th century veterans.

3) After World War I the syndrome was called


4) After World War II it was called "psycho" or

" troppo".

5) The group of symptoms suffered by some Vietnam

veterans includes

Flashbacks to terrifying events



rage reaction;

XV-2 3

dizzy spells;




guilt feelings;


low back pain;



irritable bowel syndrome;

irritable colon;




crowd phobia;


6. This syndrome or group of symptoms (no one suffers

all of them! there is usually a group however), has

been closely observed in veterans of WW I, WW II,

Korea, Malaya, and the veterans of both sides of the

middle eastern wars.

7. It is not caused by the chemicals used in Vietnam.

XV-2 4

8 . It is caused by stress.

9. The Vietnam War was particularly stressful for its

veterans because

(a) It was a guerilla war without lines;

(b) The enemy was hard to identify;

(c) There was no relief from stress because any

Vietnamese could be an enemy;

(d) Women and children were combatants and had to

be killed at times;

(e ) Australia did not win;

(f) There was no welcome home: veterans were often

shunned rather than regarded as heroes;

(g) No one wanted to listen to talk about the war;

(h) It produced a sense of waste, futility and


XV-2 5

10. About a quarter of veterans can expect to suffer 3

or more of the symptoms together at some time.

11. The same set of symptoms is often seen in survivors

of natural and other disasters (earthquakes„ floods,

car accidents, etc).

12. It is now called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

13. It is almost always cured by counselling and

psycotheraphy in about 6-10 1 hour sessions.

14. The Vietnam Veterans Counselling (WCS) Service is

successfully treating the disorder.

15. The disorder is a normal response to stress caused

by life threatening events.

16. No one needs to feel any shame or guilt about this

normal response.

XV-2 6



1) Allegations have been made that Vietnam veterans are

dying more quickly than other Australians.

2) They are in fact dying significantly more slowly

than other Australians (83% of expected).

3) They are probably dying slightly faster than

National Servicemen who served in the army but who

did not go to Vietnam.

4) The excess (if it exists) is not caused by chemical


5) It is probably caused by an increase in risk-taking

behaviour,and in smoking and in drinking connected

with Vietnam service. It may be connected with

methods of selection for such service.

6) Suicide rates amongst veterans are lower than for

Australian males of the same age (about 94%).

XV-2 7

7) Cancer rates amongst veterans are no higher than for

Australian males of the same age.

8) There is also no statistically significant excess

of suicides or cancer by comparison with the

non-veteran national service group although a small

excess of suicides by comparison with that group

cannot be excluded.

9) The claims made by W A A and in the media have

proved, on thorough investigation, to be quite


XV-2 8



1) A large number of veterans from the United States,

Australia and New Zealand sued seven chemical

companies claiming that certain herbicides used

during the Vietnam conflict adversely affected their

health and that of their families.

2) Similar claims were made against the US Government.

3) The herbicides in question were Agents Orange,

Green, Pink and Purple, i.e. those containing

2,4,5-T and its by-product contaminant TCDD (also

called dioxin).

4) Such a law suit is called a class action since it

involves all members of a class, in this instance

about 2.5 million Vietnam veterans.

5) These class actions required the Plaintiffs to

establish a number of points including causation,

i.e. that the chemicals in question caused the

damage claimed.

XV-2 9

6) On the day on which the trial was scheduled to

commence the case was settled. The seven chemical

companies agreed to pay a total of $US180m, without

admitting liability.

7) To the potential claimants this represented less

than $US90 per head.

8) To the chemical companies it represented an end to

all such claims and continuing legal costs which

already outweighed the settlement amount.

9) The trial judge, in approving the settlement,

indicated that it was 'almost impossible1 for the

Plaintiffs to succeed because it could not be shown

that the chemicals have caused the claimed health


10) The US Government paid nothing: the action against

it was dismissed as unarguably hopeless.

11) The Settlement Fund has since accrued interest and

the amount now available for distribution is

approximately $US200m.


12) A distribution plan has been approved involving:

(i) an insurance-type compensation scheme

costing $US150m. to provide death and

disability benefits;

(i i) a foundation to provide services to

veterans and, particularly, any children

with birth anomalies; and

(iii) an allocation to Australian and New Zealand

veterans of $US3.6m and$US0.4m respectively.

13) To date, no agreement has been reached as to the

administration of this allocation to Australian

veterans and it thus remains unused.




1) W A A is not a company and has no constitution or

rules binding upon individual members.

2) The Commission developed severe reservations about

its capacity and right to represent veterans and

their interests, even its members.

3) Nonetheless it permitted Counsel and others to

appear for it so that the best case possible could

be put forward.

4) The Commission had it own legal team, independent of

Government, veterans and chemical companies.

5) That team at the Commission's direction devoted its

own resources to seeking out the best case that

could be made for veterans.

6) It is the Commission's fervent hope that the

wrangling between veterans organisations will stop

so that the funds available to veterans from the

class action settlement can be put to work.

XV-3 2



1. Prior to May 1985 no submission was received by this

Commission that the Repatriation legislation ought

be changed other than by the addition of provisions

to cover wives and children injured as a result of

chemical exposure of Veterans in Vietnam.

2. No such injury occurred.

3. In May 1985 W A A and AVADSC made submissions

requesting that the Commission Report against

proposed amendments to s . 47.

4. The amendments were passed on 31 May 1965 but a

"sunset clause" was inserted by the Senate.

5. For more than 50 years Australian veterans and their

dependants in making claims under the Repatriation

Act have borne no onus of proof and have been given

the benefit of any doubt.

6. Financial considerations are a matter for the

Government and ultimately the electors.

XV-3 3

7. The Commission is of the view that this legislation

ought to enshrine the two notions

. the claimant need furnish no proof, but merely


. the benefit of any reasonable doubt should be

given to the claimant.

XV-3 4




1) The Commission examined the purpose and aims of the

Repatriation system.

2) It examined the Administration of that system,

particularly information services, investigation

procedures, the determining system and treatment


3) It found that the system suffers serious delays

because of staff ceilings, financial constraints and

a dramatic increase in numbers of claims. These

delays can be remedied and are in the process of

being remedied. Increases in staff. particularly

medical staff. are required. Increased funding to

provide for more computerisation is also urgently


4) Improvements in information services have already

begun but continue to be a high priority.

XV-3 5

5) General complaints of departmental bias and

misconduct made by W A A were closely analysed. In

general terms they were quite unwarranted.

6) A small number of particular complaints were


7) DVA has the faults usually and inevitably found in

big organisations. It is bureaucratic and has

strict guidelines and procedures which are sometimes

frustrating for its clientele.

8) The primary determining authority was applying a

different standard for allowing claims than

appellate bodies as the very high success rate (over

80%) of appeals shows.

9) Recent changes should speed up the process of

primary determination.

10) The same standard for allowing or disallowing claims

should apply at all levels. The Repatriation

Commission and DVA are acutely aware of the problem

and are striving to correct it.

XV-3 6

11) The high client approval rating of the system and

the small number of complaints establish that in

general DVA functions well.

11) In particular, standards of courtesy helpfulness and

sympathy are high.

12) When the system does break down (as any system with

more than 3 million client contacts a year must),

complaint procedures are thorough and efficient.

XV-3 7


So Agent Orange is Not Guilty and the chemical agents used

to defoliate battle zones in Vietnam and to protect

Australians from malaria are not to blame.

No one lost.

This is not a matter for regret but for rejoicing.

Veterans and their wives are no more at risk of having

abnormal offspring than anyone else.

Veterans have not been poisoned. The number with general

health problems is small. probably much smaller than

amongst their peers in the community.

The few that have psychological stress disorder can seek

help freely and without shame and above all with hope of

early relief and in the sure knowledge that no poisoning

of their minds has occurred.

This is good news and it is the Commission's fervent hope

that it will be shouted from the roof-tops.

XV-3 8



The failure of Ranch Hand I and II and of the CDC study to

put an end to the controversy in the United States ought

to sound a serious warning to the Australian Government.

The non-acceptance of the AVHS Birth Defect Study and the

lack of public awareness of the content of the AVHS

Mortality Report should set its alarm bells ringing.

The Australian Government now has an unique opportunity to

lay the Agent Orange ghost to rest. The taxpayer has

borne the expense of an independent and far reaching

public inquiry. The Government was confronted by the

Commission as to the proposed Morbidity Study as well as

on extensions of time. The Commission properly presented

an Interim Report, yet was publicly defamed for such

action by a Senior Minister of the Crown. No-one abreast

of current affairs would believe that this Commission is

or has been a Governmental running dog.

The Informal Sessions of the Commission were a success: an

associated publicity campaign arranged by the Commission

stressed the independence of the Commission and the

response showed acceptance of that concept by the public

XV-3 9

in general and Vietnam veterans in particular. The

fullest possible advantage should be taken of the status

of the Royal Commission, of the judicial character of the

Commissioner and the independence of Counsel Assisting in

publicising the findings.

Easily the most frequent comment at the informal sessions

was in the form "we don't know whether these chemicals are

causing health problems; we just want to know". This is

true on all fronts but especially so as to birth defects.

A major advertising campaign should be conducted in the

Commission's name using newspapers, radio and TV. This

advertising should emphasise the status of the Commission,

its independence from Government, veterans groups and from

chemical companies. The cost might be substantial but the

impact is necessary.

It is important that the major findings be stressed

repeatedly and prominently in order to redress the

imbalance which has resulted from past publicity.

There are many ways of achieving the required publicity.

But the Commission believes that there is one particular

way which has real prospects of success in reaching the

right market.


Those responsible for the organisation and conduct of the

Informal Sessions and the associated publicity program

should be used to repeat the process in an abbreviated

form to publicise the Commission's findings.

Counsel Assisting the Commission know the topics

thoroughly. They, better than anyone else, know the work

of the Commission and how it arrived at its findings and


Those who prepared the itineraries for the Informal

Sessions believe that the whole process could be completed

within 5 weeks and for a cost of about $40,000, i.e. less

than $1 per Vietnam veteran.

The suggested program would involve:

(i) The Commissioner making appearances in selected

locations such as capital cities to add status

to the program;

(ii) Senior Counsel Assisting addressing the

National Press Club and answering questions;

(iii) Junior Counsel Assisting and the solicitor from

the Attorney-General's Office, who previously

conducted informal sessions undertaking the


major part of the publicity program, providing

radio, television and press interviews in each

capital city;

(iv) Junior Counsel and the Solicitor should attend

meetings of the Vietnam veterans in other major

cities in each State.

Briefing of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and

the Environment by Senior Counsel Assisting in the

presence of the Commissioner on the day of tabling would

be a useful exercise.

Similar briefings of representatives of veteran

organisations including the State Branches of W A A are

also imperative.

These briefings would include the right to question


Previously Counsel Assisting had obtained permission from

the NSW Bar Association to become involved in the

publicity associated with the Informal Sessions. Further

approval would be necessary but it is believed that such

may be anticipated.

XV-4 2

The Commission notes that following the Commissioner's

regretful decline through pressure of Court work, Senior

Counsel Assisting has accepted an invitation to address

The International Toxicology Forum in early 1986 on the

work of the Commission.

No matter what procedure is adopted, the Commission

strongly recommends that the summary of findings and

recommendations in Chapter XV be reproduced in pamphlet

form for distribution through DVA. W C S . Post Offices, and

the Commonwealth Bank at no cost.

XV-4 3


The Commission makes the following recommendations:


1. THAT the overlap between Engineers Corps and the

Hygiene Coy. as to ordering, acquisition, storage,

handling, mixing, dissemination and destruction of

herbicides and insecticides should cease. One corps

should have the total responsibility for these tasks

and the records thereof.

2. THAT members of the that corps should have thorough

training in the use of chemical agents and, in

particular, any toxic risks thereof.

3. THAT each unit of that corps should be adequately

manned to ensure that all hygiene functions are

performed by the trained personnel.

4. THAT a Manual of Instructions appropriate to the

Australian Defence Forces should be maintained in

consultation wi th all relevant authorities and

experts, including but not limited to Standards

Laboratories, NH & MRC, Federal and State Health

Departments and chemical manufacturers.

XV-4 4

5. THAT proper inventory controls should be maintained.

CHAPTER VI Health Effects General

1. THAT as a matter of policy claims by Vietnam

veterans. their widows or dependants based on

diseases of the circulatory system be allowed.

2. THAT as a matter of policy claims by Vietnam

veterans. their widows or dependants based on alcohol

induced diseases or alcoholism itself be allowed.

CHAPTER VII Health Effects. Reproductive Outcomes and

Birth Anomalies

1. THAT the services of the W C S continue to be

available to all members of a Vietnam veteran's

immediate family.

2. THAT in view of the concern and apprehension of

veterans and their wives, the conclusions which the

Commission has reached in this area must be given the

widest possible publicity and the Commission so


XV-4 5

CHAPTER VIII Health Effects Cancer

1. THAT Government finance through NH & MRC studies of

the carcinogenicity of dapsone.

2. THAT any Vietnam veteran suffering from cancer who

may have taken dapsone should have his claim treated

on the basis that a reasonable hypothesis exists

connecting his disease with war service.

CHAPTER IX The Mental Health and Well Being of

Australian Personnel and of Their Spouses

1. THAT all psychological or psychiatric testing of

members of the Armed Forces be performed by

professionally qualified personnel. Testing by

clerks should cease.

2. THAT in any conflict requiring posting overseas

of Australian Personnel at battalion or greater

strength, a full-time psychiatrist be dispatched

with other medical facilities to provide

appropriate treatment in the field.

3 . THAT the Armed Forces prepare and maintain a

manual of psychia trie practice in the field.

including principles of treatment such as

"proximity, immediacy, and expectancy".

XV-4 6

THAT the practice of endorsing a Certificate of

Discharge "Not suited to be a soldier" cease


THAT wherever possible units travel to and return

from the area of conflict together.

THAT after withdrawal from a battle zone. prior

to return for demobilisation, personnel be placed

in a military environment for a period of at

least two weeks. During this period thorough

de-briefing and demobilisation counselling be

given. A relaxed discipline should apply pending

return to civilian life.

THAT after debriefing, the soldier be sent for a

further period of approximately two weeks to a

recreational facility with his or her spouse or

primary partner to permit adequate opportunity to

re-establish their relationship on "neutral"

ground: child care subsidies should be provided

during this period.

THAT under no circumstances should veterans be

returned to civilian life without money, civilian

clothes and adequate transport to their homes (as

has occurred in other countries).

THAT comprehensive p s y c h o l o g i c a l /psychiatric

assessment of every member of the Armed Forces be

undertaken prior to discharge.

THAT the Vietnam Veterans' Counselling Service

(WCS) be established on a statutory basis,

independent of the Department of Veterans'

Affairs, but responsible to the Minister

administering the Repatriation Legislation. The

enabling legislation should contain a five year

"sunset" clause.

THAT the W C S be funded to more frequently visit

remote areas with numbers of Vietnam veterans.

THAT Senior W C S counsellors be permitted to

issue travel warrants to enable a veteran, with

his spouse, and family if necessary, to travel to

the nearest facility offering emergency

psychiatric care, whether or not that facility be

within the RGH system.

THAT W C S forthwith be expanded to an extent

adequate to provide comprehensive family and

group counselling as required. It should also be

expanded at an administrative level to permit

Vietnam veterans to receive competent advice on

repatriation entitlements. The WCS, in this

form, would therefore act as mediator between the

veteran and the appropriate governmental agency.

THAT counselling services through W C S or

otherwise be available to any member of the

immediate family of a Vietnam veteran whether the

veteran presents or not.

15. THAT W C S be given sufficient funds to perform an

educa tive role so that the veteran and

non-ve teran community can be informed of the

nature of the problems actually facing the

Vietnam veteran. and of the rebuttal of the Agent

Orange myth. It should also publicise its own

dual service.

16. THAT the pamphlet summary of the Commission's

findings and recommendations be made available

free to all members of the public from DVA, WCS,

Post Offices and all branches of the Commonwealth


17. THAT any PTSD-related disability pension be

subject to review by a professionally qualified

person at least once a year.

18. THAT funds be provided to promote research,

through the NH & MRC, into the psychological

problems of Vietnam veterans, with particular

emphasis on treatment methods and differential

success rates of treatment systems.

19. THAT the Australian Government erect, in the

National Capital, a monument appropriate to the

sacrifice of Vietnam veterans living and dead.

XV-4 9

It should be outdoors and readily accessible and

should acknowledge by name those who died on

active service.

20. THAT there be Government approval for the

declaration of a "Vietnam Veterans 1 Day1 11; an

appropriate da te to be determined after

consultation with Vietnam Veteran groups. It is

suggested that 18 August (the date of the battle

of Long Tan) might be an appropriate date.

The Commission respectfully suggests that thorough

debriefing and "retirement" counselling occur at the time

of discharge of the "20 year" man from the regular

forces. The re-adjustment problems of these men have been

brought forcefully (if irrelevantly) to the attention of

the Commission.

CHAPTER XI Class Action

1. THAT the Trustees of the proposed Australian

Vietnam War Veterans' Trust Limited be expanded

to include a W C S counsellor, an actuary. a

lawyer and a specialist/physician.


CHAPTER XIII Interim Report and s.47

1· THAT all Repatriation legislation reflect the


. the claimant need furnish no proof. but

merely aver;

. the benefit of any reasonable doubt should

go to the claimant.

CHAPTER XIV Benefits and Treatment

1 · THAT Determining Authorities be established and

supported administratively separately and apart

from DVA.

2. THAT the Repatriation Commission be restricted in

its operations to making assessments.

3. That all claims rejected by the Repatriation

Commission be subject to automatic review by the

Veterans' Review Board.

4. THAT a small administrative secretariat be

established in each State to assist the

Repatriation Commission and that the staff of

such secretariats be recruited independently of

the resources of DVA, although open to

appointment from DVA's staff.


5 . THAT the Repatriation Commission and Determining

Authorities, develop training aids utilising both

the resources of DVA (as available) as well as

external legal sources.

6. THAT such training aids be incorporated in

loose-leaf volumes and regularly reviewed.

revised and supplemented by the resources of the


7. THAT information services be improved so that all

veterans, but particularly Vietnam veterans, are

made aware of the nature, extent and conditions

of Repatriation entitlements, particularly

treatment services.

8. THAT DVA continue the extension of its existing

public relations program to ensure that Vietnam

veterans, their spouses, and their families, are

made more aware of the benefits available to them

under the existing Repatriation legislation.

9. THAT DVA centralise and co-ordinate a uniform

policy and practice of processing inquiries, and

establish a Customer Liaison Service headed by a

Customer Liaison Officer who should be given

responsibility for the co-ordination of

Information Services in each State.

XV-5 2

10. THAT the customer Liaison Officer have

responsibility for the areas of Freedom of

Information, Country Visits Officers, direct

control over counter staff training.

co-ordination of information kits available

through the Department of Social Security,

service organisations, and to individual

veterans; maintain liaison with senior

Departmental training officers and with service

organisations, co-ordinate customer Inquiry

Officer programs having responsibility for

answering all inquiries concerning Repatriation

benefits; and co-ordinate Complaints

Investigation Officer programs responsible for

dealing with all complaints received from service

organisations, individual veterans or their


11. THAT DVA implement forthwith the remaining

recommendations contained in the W.D. Scott


12. THAT DVA forthwith create in all States a system

which channels claims mentioning chemicals to a

particular officer thoroughly versed in the

chemical issue and this Report. He should also

be a trained counsellor.

XV-5 3

13 .

Entitlement Sections be given firm guidelines

enabling them to identify particular claims which

may appropriately be referred to commission

Delegates for prompt determination;

14. THAT greater reliance be placed upon existing

medical opinions and diagnoses available at the

time a claim is lodged. Where possible a s.48

medical opinion should be written using this

information. Consequently a departmental medical

examination should not be performed as a matter

of course.

15. THAT where a departmental medical examination is

performed the examining DMO at the same time,

prepare a s.48 opinion except in those

circumstances where additional specialist

appointments or other tests are reasonably

required following a preliminary diagnosis;

16. THAT wherever possible the original examining DMO

prepare the s.48 medical opinion;

17. THAT when substantial delays are occurring in the

medical examination and assessment areas greater

use be made of outside medical practitioners;

18. THAT the practice of scheduling specialist

appointments be monitored to ensure that DMOs

THAT Departmental Directions Officers in

XV-5 4

seek such specialist opinions only when necessary

for the purpose of assisting claim determination

or when considered medically necessary;

THAT medical assessments identifying degrees of

incapacity be made by medical officers at the

same time as diagnostic medical examinations are

conducted wherever possible.

THAT an intra-departmental committee reporting to

the Secretary to the Department be established to

consider the number of Repatriation Commission

decisions reversed on appeal, the reasons

therefore, and the need to amend administrative

practices or procedures in the light of such


THAT funds be provided to enable DVA to transfer

clinical record files of Vietnam veterans to

computer files. This would enable all hospitals

in the Repatriation system to have immediate and

continuous access to all clinical records while

enabling other administrative actions to proceed

or continue. Administration and treatment should

be complementary and not competing priorities

within DVA. The computerisation of all relevant

records would facilitate that end. This is a

most important recommendation. The Commission

has perceived its own inquiries creating delays

because of the need to sight the files.

The Commission respectfully suggests that the

computerisation process referred to in Recommendation 21

above be extended to the clinical files of all DVA


The Commission is acutely aware of the expense of

computerisation of clinical files. It regards this step

as urgent and perceives it as in large measure solving

complaints about information supply, delay and counter


CHAPTER XV Conclusions and Recommendations

1, The Commission recommends the adoption of its

program for publicity of its findings set out in

the postscript.

XV-5 6


1. With respectful acknowledgement to the

inscription on the empty tomb of an unknown

soldier of the Vietnam War, Arlington Cemetery, Washington DC, USA.

2. Efron, Edith, "The Apocalyptics". Simon &

Schuster, NYC 1984.




"Repetition does not transform

a lie into a truth".

Franklin D . Roosevelt

October 26, 1939


There was a day in the life of the Commission which was

particularly pleasing. A method had been devised of

calling eight witnesses together, all counsellors with the

W C S . Each had, without caucusing, prepared a statement

of position and relevant experiences. Senior Counsel

prepared them and each made an oral statement, in a

court-style session, and was cross-questioned by him.

Cross-questioning between the witnesses and comment by the

one upon another's statement was also permitted.

This innovative, cost-effective procedure "worked" and

saved at least eight days of formal hearing time.

A journalist following the Commission's work wrote an

article on it which appeared in the country (first)

edition of a major city daily. It was axed from the

second and later editions. The journalist upon asking her

superiors, "Why?" was told:

"We don't want good news about Royal Commissions.


An understand Lag of the Agent Orange phenomenon is

impossible without an insight into an era. It is far from

unique: it was fashionable: it came during a score of

years which produced a glamorisation of politicised

scientists practising pseudo-science. This glamorisation

occurred because the media made lions of those who spread

the gospel of chemical doom.

These lions came to be amongst the leaders of a more

general national concern in the United States for the

environment. a cause of true worth. Although this account

will focus on the USA, because the Agent Orange story grew

there, similar movements were developing throughout the

western world particularly in Scandinavia, Great Britain

and Australia.

The first prophet was Rachel Carson. Like most prophets

she had her precursors but she added a lyrical power and a

poetic and passionate dimension to their undeveloped theme

which elevated it to a cause. Her 1962 book, "Silent

Spring", is a classic.1


to its From its opening fable of a lifeless town

ominous prediction of genetic deterioration, "the last and

greatest danger to our civilisation", through exposure to

"unnatural" and "synthetic" (i.e. man-made) radiation and 3 chemicals. and past "man alone of all forms of life can

create carcinogens", it denounces modern industrial

technology. Americans were to industry and its


Governmental regulators as were guests to the Borgias.

Powerful stuff !

On the population question the prophet was Ehrlich and the

enemy again was man and technology. "The Population 5 Bomb" (1968) predicted famine and world-wide death by

the 1970s or the early 1980s at the latest. Zero

Population Growth became the trendy aim of the upper

middle class. (His methods, totalitarian beyond easy

measure, included compulsory sterilants in the water and

luxury taxes on nappies. )

The third prophet, Dr Barry Commoner, was adopted by

Senator Edmund Muskie, a candidate for the American

presidency. In Senate hearings (1969) Commoner sought

nothing - less than "revision of the constitution".6 and 7

(later) "a socialist alternative", to change what he



described as the irreversible course of destruction of

water, land and people.

A fourth was Rene Dubos, the popular author of "Only One

Earth".8 His work was joined by the Club of Rome's MIT

Study, "The Limits to Growth" and both pointed to the

disaster that would follow disregard of "the unity of 9

ecosystems" and "the eggshell delicacy" of natural

systems, namely, the uncontrollable decline of the world

and an ungraspable death rate.10

George Wald, a Nobel Prize winner in Physiology and

Medicine joined the ranks in 1968. In an article called

"There Isn't Much Time"11 he attacked western Christian

capitalism, meat eating, and multi-nationals, calling for

a middle class revolution to save life on earth. He cited

no new scientific evidence and made no detailed analysis

of what existed and was in any event outside his own areas

of speciality.

Nonetheless in 1968 he felt able to predict "no existence

for his children and his students within 10, 20, 25 years

- ,, 12

f rom now".

Each of these claimed that it was science that led to the

prediction of disaster.


In the area of chemical threat specific allegations about

cancer were being made. On 12 January 1976 Dr Samuel

Epstein, then Director of Environmental Health at the Case

Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, told a

symposium conducted by the Environmental Study Conference

of the House of Representatives that one out of every five

Americans was dying in an "epidemic" of cancer, that

"between 70 and 90% of human cancers are environmentally

induced" and that a majority "are due to chemical

carcinogens in the environment." Accordingly, he urged,

"Federal agencies must move swiftly against polluting 13 industries."

At the same gathering consumer advocate, Ralph Nader,

assured the Congressmen that the world was entering "the

carcinogenic century" and that this was due to "historic

abuse" by corporations that were polluting land, air and _ 14


On February 26 . 1976 no less a person than the

Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, one

Russell E. Train, told the National Press Club in

Washington DC:

Most Americans had no idea, until relatively recently, that they were living so dangerously.


They had no idea that when they went to work in the morning, or when they ate their breakfast - that when they did the things they had to do to earn a living and keep themselves alive and well - that when they did things as ordinary, as

innocent and essential to life as eat, drink, breathe or touch they could, in fact, be laying their lives on the line. They had no idea that, without their knowledge or consent, they were

often engaged in a grim game of chemical roulette whose result they would not know until many years later.

He continued:

It is time we started putting chemicals to the test, not people. It is time we gave the people of this country some reason to believe that every time they breathe or eat or drink or touch, they

are not taking their life into their own


Perhaps he did not know that his rhetoric echoed the grim

predictions that followed the early studies of Rehn on

bladder cancer amongst analine workers in 1895. The

unhappy harvest of cancer predicted after Rehn never



The scientists had been joined by an advocate and an

administrator. But they were not alone.

The anthropologist, Margaret Mead, in her review of

"Silent Spring" said:


Not war, but a plethora of man made things ... is threatening to strangle us. suffocate us, bury us, in the debris and by-products of our

technologically inventive and irresponsible age.

Lyn White, a historian, wrote in 1967:

Surely no creature other than man has ever

managed to foul its nest in such short order . . . More science and more technology are not going to get us out of the present ecologic crisis until we find a new religion, or rethink our old ones. The beatniks, who are the basic revolutionaries

of our time, show a sound instinct in their

affinity for Zen Buddhism, which conceives of a man-nature relationship as very nearly the mirror image of the Christian view.·1 ·7

Don Price, the Dean of the School of Government at Harvard


To me it seems possible that the new amount of technological power let loose in an overcrowded world may overload any system we might devise for its control; the possibility of a complete and apocalyptic end of civilisation cannot be

dismissed as a morbid fantasy.18

Robert Dish, a Journalist and editor of "The Ecological

Conscience" in 1970 (at pp. xiii-xiv) wrote:

. . . man-made changes in the biosphere threaten the integrity of the life-support system

essential for the survival of human life ... I believe that the present threat to the

life-support system demands changes in values, institutions and societal goals...


Politician Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970 said:

The institutions we have created are destroying the liveability of the whole world; and the young people know it. They may not articulate it well, but they sense it. They feel it.19

A Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission in

1970 wrote:

Responsible scientific opinion holds that, unless present trends are not merely halted but

reversed „ there will be not more than 35 to 100 more years to the end of all human life on

earth. 0

Nor were lawyers immune from the infection. Supreme Court

Justice William O. Douglas wrote in 1972:

. . . it is clear that the ravaging and raping of the earth that has gone on must stop . . .

Population pressures mount; littering and pollution remain a scourge; the powerful lobbies seem bent on destroying our last few sanctuaries. For things to change there must be a spiritual

awakening. Our people - young and old - must become truly activist - and aggressively so - if we and the biosphere on which we depend are to survive. 21

This Commission has no brief to say who was right and who

was wrong about the end of the world as we know it. But

others more learned thought the evidence inadequate, the

extrapolations wild and the conclusions careless.


In a comment on the Club of Rome's MIT Study the Deputy

Editor of "The (English) Economist" declared:

By extrapolating present trends and yet assuming no change in technology it would have been

possible in every human lifetime to prophesy some such ineluctable disaster. An Englishman in the ho rse-and-buggy era of the late 1800s ... might have proved with such a method of extrapolation

that the cities of the 1970s would be buried under mountains of horse manure.22

Gunnar Myrdal, a Nobel Prize winning economist, said of

"The Limits of Growth" at an International Conference in


Estimates upon which the warnings for depletion and pollution are founded are utterly uncertain

and went on to criticise:

The inexcusably careless manner in which

so-called futuristic research is now often pursued.23

At the same conference the Chief Scientific Adviser to the

British Government, Lord Zuckerman, (a dedicated

environmentalist) summed up the MIT paper in the following


Its authors led themselves through the circuits of a computer to the conclusion that the only way


out for mankind is to slow down economic growth abruptly and to change human nature drastically.

Their thesis. he said, is "unscientific nonsense" and has


been lauded "mainly by the scientifically uninitiated."

As well both Rene Dubos and his co-author, Barbara Ward,

at the same Conference conceded that their work in the

sense that it was predictive had no reliable scientific . . 25 basis.

In 1977 James Krier and Edmund Ersin wrote "Pollution and

Policy: A Case Essay on California and Federal Experience

with Motor Vehicle Air Pollution 1940-1975. "26 They were

analysing the development of public policy in the realm of

air pollution. They sought out the source of the "great

environmental crisis" that had swept the US in the late


They said:

And then there was the great environmental

crisis; it most of all is a mystery. That, like crises in the past, this one contributed to

further intervention seems unquestionable, but there similarity ends. Crises in the past

concerned particular pollution episodes and generated, if anything, rather focused response. But that was not the case with the great

environmental crisis of 1969-1970. Its roots were not in any specific cause, and it spawned

E- 9

not narrow response but an entire movement (or the movement spawned it; the connection is hardly clear) - a general "environmental

consciousness"... Whether the environmental crisis arose from this larger sense of unrest, or from efforts of crusaders finally bearing fruit, or from growth, or the need for a new issue now

that the "urban crisis" had quietly died, or from all or none of these is an open question.

There was no environmental crisis.

Daniel Moynihan who was the United States Ambassador to

the UN during the early 1970s reported that a relatively

small group of Americans had literally talked a large

portion of the UN intelligentsia into accepting the idea

that the planet was in peril. He said that America's

elite was manufacturing a global crisis for export:

We have become great producers and distributors of crisis. The world environment crisis, the world population crisis, the world food crisis, are in the main American discoveries - or

inventions - opinions differ.27

In 1977 Paul Johnson, a former editor of the "New

Statesman" did offer an explanation.

[In the past, the] apocalyptics and millenarians ... constantly predicted the event and the

precise form it would take; and, this strain of human nature being what it is, the repeated failures of such precise prophecies in no way deterred men from framing and believing in new ones.


What is even more remarkable is that apocalyptic prophecy survived the coming of the secular age, and took on a more materialist form. Marx, with his highly detailed and imaginative presentation

of the eschatology of capitalism, can be

described as the last of the Judeo/Christian prophets, or the first of the secular ones. Nor. as one would expect, did the discrediting of Marx's vision by the actual unrolling of events

prevent fresh generations of the

millenarian-minded from modifying and updating it, or indeed from devising new secular

eschatologies. Any unexpected, brutal or ominous conjunction of events is enough to conjure up new visions of the end ...

[Today, ] in relation to the future of the

international free economy, it takes the

particular form of ecological eschatology. The Four Last Things are to be the poisoning of the air, the exhaustion of the soil, the final

consumption of the earth's natural resources, and mass-starvation of an overpopulated planet.28

In regard to Armageddon, who was right and who was wrong

is of no real concern to the Commission. But in this

instance the believers seemed to be men of faith rather

than men of science. For it seems clear that on at least

three aspects fundamental to the general thesis the

prophets of gloom were wrong and wrong in ways which ought

to have affected the milieu into which the Agent Orange

story was born.

The first axiom of the environmentalists' theory of cancer

was that nature's role in cancer production was

negligible. It was claimed that since man had evolved

with nature, over eons, natural carcinogens (i.e.


cancer-producing subs Lances) were few but that man had

created and is creating his own cancerous universe by

contaminating the world with "unnatural" radiation and

sinister (because they are "synthetic") chemicals. Life

was adapted only to the natural. This was both Rachel

Carson's and Barry Commoner's seminal point.

There are many answers to this axiom.

The first is that cancer pre-dates man. The great

reptiles, dinosaurs for example, suffered from cancer 200 2 9 3 0

million years ago. See also Cleaver, J. who

introduced a paper at a Cancer Conference with the words:

In the Natural History Museum in London, there is a skeleton of Tyrannosaurus Rex which has in its tail a slip disc and an osteosarcoma.

Long before synthesis, human beings had cancer. Peruvian

and Egyptian mummies have been found with osteosarcoma and

multiple myeloma.3' 1 '

The truth is that most carcinogens are natural and

ubiquitous, have been present throughout history, and may

even have facilitated the speciation of living things.


James A Miller, a cancer researcher at the University of

Wisconsin put together a list of naturally occurring

carcinogens, surveyed and elaborated upon by Edith Efron 3 2

in "The Apocalyptics." Natural carcinogens include:

Radiation The Universe is pervaded with

radiation including galactic, cosmic, and solar.33 The impact of cosmic radiation is

correlated with altitude. It is clear that at altitudes of above 2 kms cosmic radiation becomes the major dose rate contributor in man.34

Terrestrial radiation is inescapable for man. The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement.35 reports that natural radio activity is to be found in air, water, rocks and

soil as well as in the tissues of plants. animals and man.

Solar radiation is implicated in skin cancers and is connected with malignant melanoma.36

Ames37 and Herriott38 suggest that

ultra-violet radiation is mutagenic at least in vitro.

Metals The following naturally occurring

metallics are included in the 1976 NIOSH list of carcinogens:- arsenic, beryl ore, cadmium, chromite, chromium, cobalt, silver, limonite. magnetite, sienna, copper, nickel, mercury,


Minerals The silicates found in all kinds of sand, are included in the 1976 NIOSH list of


Asbestos, is of course a mineral silicate.

Radon, a natural gas is radioactive and causes whole body radiation.

Volcanic aerosols contain many naturally

occurring carcinogens, for example oxides of silicone, magnesium, potassium, titanium and various nitrates.


Man cannot live without oxygen yet oxygen has been

3 9

reported as a carcinogen in animal experiments! It is 40

also said to be a mutagen in the Ames Test whilst

hyperoxia, (too much oxygen) is said to produce birth 41

defects in baby animals, e.g. mice and also can blind

the new-born if they are (in the crib) over exposed.

Lightning produces NOx which is said to be a carcinogen 42 and a mutagen.

Many viruses, bacteria, fungi, plants and trees, as Miller

points out, produce cancer in laboratory animals and a few

of them in man. Who would suggest life without trees,

mushrooms and yoghurt?

Caffeine, safrole, acetaldehyde, corn oil, estrogens, 4 3

pactulins and vitamins are all said to be carcinogens.

In vegetables the nitrates are common. Meat and fowl

contain the fatty acid, peroxide melonaldehyde. Boiling, . 44

roasting and baking of food produces carcinogens.

Fermented foods and beverages have a wide popularity.

Beer, wine, bread, olives and yoghurt all contain ethyl

carbamate or urethane, both reported to be

• 4 5

carcinogenic. Nagao and Sugimura also report that


boiled fish. fried hamburger. cooked sugars, cooked

garlic, onions and fish are mutagenic. Cooking is as old

as recorded time and man is not likely to abandon it.

Air and water contain ozone and oxygen, known carcinogens

and mutagens in some systems and also a wide range of

particles which are inhaled and ingested. These include

metals and minerals themselves suspect as carcinogens and


So much for the natural/unnatural theory.

A corollary of this axiom is that 90% of cancer comes from

industrial chemicals. It has been disseminated by,

amongst others. Epstein and anonymous sources at the

National Cancer Institute. It was lifted quite wrongly

from Professor John Higginson who meant by "environmental"

the whole of the human habit, experience and environment.

In 1979 he explained publicly in interviews to Science and

to the Washington Post that his theory of environmental

cancer had been misinterpreted by "ecologists", the

"chemical carcinogenesis" people and the "occupational

. „ 46



The true figure is 6 or 7% for synthetic chemical

associated cancers. Corrections by Higginson,

contradictions by Muir of the Epidemiology Unit of the

I ARC and rebuttal by Richard Doll in "Cancer Incidence in

Five Continents" could not erase the false impression.

The 90% figure was adopted by environmentalists and widely

disseminated by the press.

The next great axiom was that a cancer epidemic has

arrived or is about to arrive. The truth is that there

was and is no epidemic.

Observe the following:

a. In 1977 the World Health Organisation reported

the death rates from cancer were either

stationary or declining in both males and females

for all cancers other than cancer of the



b . In 1978 the Division of Vital Statistics at the

National Center for Health Statistics (USA)

reported that when respiratory cancers were 4 g

subtracted all other cancers had declined.


c. Τη 1979 the American Cancer Society reported that

the overall incidence of cancer had decreased

4 9 slightly in the past 25 years.

d . In 1982 a National Research Council Committee

stated that overall age adjusted cancer rates

have remained fairly stable over the past 30 to

40 years, although the number of cancer cases has

risen due to population increase. The only true

increase is in respiratory tract cancer related

to cigarette smoking. At the same time there had

been decreases in stomach, breast and uterine 50 cancer.

Since the prediction of the great cancer epidemic in 1975,

the reports have been essentially the same. More than 40

years have passed since the major industrialisation that

followed World War II and there has been no cancer

epidemic. Despite the constancy of these reports from the

major record keeping systems of the US and indeed of the

world, announcements that the great cancer epidemic has

arrived continue until today.

In 1976, CBS News, mentioning no particular source.

announced that cancer rates in the population at large . 51

were soaring.


In its Sunday Review of the Week, the New York Times on

January 20. 1980 in an article entitled. "Fighting Cancer

in the Workplace", announced, citing the Federal

Government's own estimate, that a monstrous epidemic of

occupational cancer was occurring. Marvin Schneiderman,

an engaging witness before this Commission testified

before the OSHA that cancer incidence had suddenly

increased at an "awesome" rate. His opinions were based

upon the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance

Epidemiology and End Results Program (SEER).

In 1981 Sir Richard Doll and Richard Peto (probably the

most respected epidemiologists in the world) delivered a

damning indictment of the SEER data and concluded that

there was "no evidence of any generalized increase (in 52

cancer rates) other than that due to tobacco.

In 1978 an occupational epidemic materialised in a draft

paper called, "Estimates of the Fraction of Cancer

Incidence in the United States Attributable to

Occupational Factors". Its authors were unknown but it

was released to the press by Joseph Califano. Secretary of

the US Department of Health Education and Welfare, on 11

September 1978. This study predicted 2 million deaths

from asbestos exposure. It also clashed violently with


all prior estimates that had been made of the fraction of

cancer that could be attributed to occupation.

The most common previous occupational proportion predicted

was between 1% and 5% and occasionally estimates of 10%

had been made. This paper's prediction of 40% was

staggeringly higher. The study received widespread

publicity, whilst its attackers, despite their enormously

high qualifications, received little. Doll and Peto said

that the estimates were "so grossly in error that no

arguments based even loosely on them should be taken

seriously". j3

Of one particular estimate relating to nickel exposure

Doll and Peto wrote "this calculation might fairly be 54

described as a confidence trick".

The study by Doll and Peto "Avoidable Risks of Cancer" has

been acclaimed by epidemiologists and toxicologists alike

as the most reliable work on attribution of cancer. Their

paper makes the following estimates of attributability:

a. 30% tobacco;

b. 35% diet;

c. 3% alcohol;


d . 7% reproductive and sexual behaviour;

e. 3% geophysical factors,e.g. UV radiation;

f. 10% infection; (?)

g. less than 1% food additives (possibly minus 5%, a protective effect!);

h. 2% pollution;

i. less than 1% industrial products;

j · 1% medicines and medical procedures;

k. 4 % occupation;55

1. 3% unknown (?).

So much for the "Industrial Cancer Epidemic."

The third axiom of the United States environmentalists was

that the world's most industrialised nation, the United

States, was number one in cancer.

In 1975 three things were announced by the press as

breathless discoveries.

a. United States had the highest cancer rates in the


b . That rates of cancers associated with industrial

pollution were highest in the U.S.;


c. That the majority of American cancers were caused

by pollution.

All three "discoveries" were utterly baseless.

In a documentary entitled, "The American Way of Death" Dan

Rather of CBS News opened a 1976 program with "The news

tonight is that the United States is "number one in

cancer." The National Cancer Institute estimates that if

you are living in America your chances of getting cancer 56

are higher than anywhere else in the world". At the

time that this news was published the best information

available was in a table of age-adjusted death rates in 52

countries collected by the American Cancer Society, from

work done by Mitsui Segi. U.S. blacks got to 9th position


but U.S. whites could not get higher than 25th.

The media continued to publicise the "number one" theory,

the bad news.

At the same time the cherished belief that cancer was

predominantly a disease of advanced industrialisation and

that cancer was usually or even necessarily industrial in

type continued to receive widespread publicity. That


these were myths was not new news but old news. As good

news their mythological status was no news.

In the Israel Journal of Medical Sciences Volume 4, 1968,

Page 460, John Higginson gave the following examples of

distribution of different patterns of cancer:

1. High incidence of nasopharyngeal cancer in males

was found amongst Singaporeans who were Chinese

and also in Southern China. Medium incidence was

found in Malaya, Thailand, Indonesia and Kenya;

low incidence was found in Europe and most areas

of Africa and India.

2. High incidence of mouth cancer excluding the lip

was found in Ceylon and India, medium incidence

was found in France and low incidence was found

in most countries.

3. High incidence of esophageal cancer was found in

Japan, China, southern Africa, Jamaica. Iran,

Southern USSR and the Caribbean. Low incidence

was found in North America, most European

countries and Israel. High incidence of stomach

cancer was found in Chile, Iceland, Columbia.


Finland and Newfoundland and low incidence was

found in the US. Africa and India.

4. High incidence of liver cancer in males was found

in Mozambique, and southern Africa; low incidence

was found in North America, Europe, South

America, Jamaica and India.

5. High incidence of cervical cancer was found in

Colombia, Puerto Rico, southern Africa. Jamaica

and amongst the non-white population of the US.

Low incidence was found in the United Kingdom, in

whites in the US and in New Zealand and in Israel

• „ 58 it was very rare.

The three axioms above appeared regularly in the press and

became conventional wisdom, right or wrong. Not only were

the assertions of scientists propagating bad news given

wide publicity but the catastrophic experience of

individual human beings and their views as to the causes

of their ill-health were given wide publicity and a

semblance of credibility, although totally unqualified.


In her book. The Apocalyptics Edith Efron wrote:


The press coverage is. above all, a visible

symptom of a far deeper problem. It is the

problem of the scientist who rushes into

political action as a substitute for scientific endeavor; the scientist who seeks to use the coercive power of the state to impose his

unproved opinions. It is the problem of the

irrational trends in biology which exploded in the 1960s. It is the problem of laws and

regulations which have "liberated scientists" from the onerous burden of being scientists and have created a vacuum into which incompetents, opportunists. gurus, witch doctors, and

idealogues have rushed. It is the problem of a cultural degeneration which manifests itself in an arrogant hostility to reason, to logic, to objectivity; in clamorous claims to nonexistent knowledge; in an unabashed pursuit of idealogical goals in the guise of a quest for truth.

Much that has been said in this Chapter was said by Ms

Efron in greater detail and force and with consummate

scholarship in her book. This summary of the

circumstances which pertained when the Agent Orange story

began is included so as to show exactly how fertile was

the ground in which that seed was planted.

Nor was only the surrounding soil fertile. The particular

group of human beings to which the Agent Orange story was

directed were significantly vulnerable. It is certain

that a number of Vietnam veterans have problems that are

real, measurable and predictable. Of those, some have

post-traumatic stress disorder or other pyschological

complications of their war service. Such people are

particularly vulnerable to displacement.


Displacement has been described as the psychological

location of the source of the problem outside oneself. An

ex-egocentric explanation is much more acceptable to a

sufferer than is what might be preceived as an internal

inadequacy or incapacity.

The Commission does not regard the untoward pyschological

consequences of war as in any sense indicating inadequacy,

as has been made abundantly clear in Chapter IX. That

others so regard them is an unfortunate reality.

One example will point up human vulnerability to such


In the course of informal sessions a mother came forward

and said, "Commissioner, I cannot tell you how glad I was

when I heard about Agent Orange." "Glad?" was the

somewhat startled response. "Yes", she said, "Glad. You

see my dad was in World War I and he coped. My hubby was

in World War 2 and he coped. Why couldn't my boy cope?

And then I heard about Agent Orange."

The vulnerability of veterans helps to explain why Maude

De Victor's orange spark turned into a raging bushfire

leaping not merely rivers but even the Pacific Ocean.


Into this atmosphere of readiness to believe in any

chemical-caused disaster, came some propaganda, some real

science, some inadequate science, a few early but quite

untrained believers, a lawyer with flair for client

creation and, eventually, an avalanche of publicity.

The North Vietnamese and the Vietcong had from the

earliest days of the defoliant program denounced it as

chemical warfare. One interpolates that the distinction

between chemical warfare in the sense of the use of

chemicals to directly harm as with mustard gas or germs

and chemical non-warfare in the sense of the use of

chemicals to destroy crops and food stuffs so as to starve

the antagonist seems a fine one. The Commission is

reminded by a rather exasperated senior soldier who said

in response to a question concerning his shame at the use

of herbicides, "You can be sure, sir, that I will not use

herbicides next time. I will defoliate with high

explosives and napalm. Those who happen to be underneath

will not be complaining of health problems a decade


The North Vietnamese had also widely disseminated

allegations about health effects in general and birth

defects in particular.60


From 1965 on some Americans, substantially though not

exclusively, people otherwise opposed to the war, became

increasingly vocal in opposition to the defoliation

program. This opposition was expressed particularly by

scientists concerned with the long term ecological

consequences of a massive defoliation program.

For example, in 1966 Arthur Galston, Professor of Biology

at Yale University tried to persuade the American Society

of Plant Physiologists to protest to President Johnson

about the herbicide program.61

In February 1967 Doctors John Edsall and Matthew Meselson

were the driving force behind an anti-chemical petition to

President Johnson signed by over 5000 scientists including

17 Nobel Prize winners.62

The American Association for the Advancement of Science

(AAAS) over the signature of President Don Price wrote to

the Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, outlining the

Academy's concerns and recommending thorough scientific


A direct result of this initiative was the commissioning

by the Department of Defense of a comprehensive report on


herbicides from the Mid-West Research Institute based in . 63

Kansas City.

That, report was prepared independently of Government and

came to the following conclusions about the defoliation


(1) The direct toxicity hazard to people and animals on the ground is nearly nonexistent,

(2) the destruction of wildlife food and

wildlife habitat will probably affect wildlife survival more than any direct toxic effects of the herbicides,

(3) the application of Orange or White alongside of rivers and canals or even the spraying of the water area itself at the levels used for defoliation is not likely to kill the fish

in the water,

(4) food produced from land treated with

herbicides will not be poisonous or

significantly altered in nutritional quality; ... if residues of a more

persistent herbicide such as picloram should carry over to the next growing season it would retard plant growth rather than concentrate some toxic residue in the crop,

(5) toxic residues of these herbicides (Orange, White and Blue) will not accumulate in the fish and meat animals to the point where man will be poisoned by them, and

(6) the primary ecological change is the

destruction of vegetation and the resulting ecological succession in the replacement of this vegetation.64


This authoritative report, containing as it did good news.

received little p u b l i c i t y and therefore did little to

allay the fears.

In response to further agitation by the AAAS, the

Department of Defense sent Dr Fred Tschirley, a Department

of Agriculture Specialist to Vietnam. The currency of the

war made a thorough investigation by Tschirley difficult

as he conceded.65

Meanwhile, the North Vietnamese and their (then) Chinese

allies were promoting an international clamour to stop the

use of herbicides. Even the allied South Vietnamese were

becoming restless.66

The US Embassy in Saigon felt it necessary to make a

statement in September 1968 referring to the work of an

inter-agency committee which had recommended the

continuation of the program on the basis of the saving of

SVN & US lives.67

Nonetheless, the AAAS continued to agitate although its

membership was by now far from united.68

E-2 9

Doctors Egbert Pfeiffer and Gordon Orians, members of

AAAS, visited Vietnam and gave a full account of their

mission describing the devastating effect of defoliation

on Vietnamese ecology whilst conceding the military value

of the exercise.69

Up to this point the opposition was confined to ecology.

There was however, a reliable scientific basis for some

concern on health grounds.

Before the defoliation program began. the chemical

industry was well aware of the existence in 2,4,5-T of the

contaminant dioxin, TCDD. It was also aware of the highly

toxic nature of this compound.

An accident in the Monsanto works at Nitro, West Virginia,

in 1949 had been studied by Dr Ray Suskind, Head of the

Department of Environmental Health at the University of

Cincinatti. Those exposed to TCDD in that event were the

subject of interest.

As early as .19 52 Monsanto had warned the Army at Edgewood

Arsenal of the toxic by-product. A Hercules internal

memo of July 12, 1965, revealed knowledge within the DOW

empire of the toxicity of TCDD.


that Suskind1s investigations ultimately indicated

although initial symptoms of fatigue, irritability, loss

of libido and appetite and some liver function test

anomalies appeared, there were no long-term signs or

symptoms other than persistent chloracne. Chloracne is 71 quite distinctive skin disorder, said to be the


hallmark of exposure to TCDD.

There had also been accidents involving exposure of

workers to dioxin in Ludwigshaf en, FRG in 1953 and in 7 3 Amsterdam in 1963. Little was commonly known about the

aftermath of those events.

What caught the public imagination however, was a study

funded by the National Cancer Institute which suggested

that 2,4,5-T was teratogenic in rats and mice. It should

be noted that this study involved the application of

dosages of between 4.6 mg/kg to 113 mg/kg bw to pregnant

female rats and mice in the early days of their

. 74


The report of this study in the US national press in 1969

coincided with rumours and media reports from South

Vietnam suggesting a dramatic increase in birth defects in

rural areas and citing US herbicide use as the cause.


Photographs of human babies with gross deformities were 75 also in wide circulation.

The Executive Office of Science and Technology on 29

October 1969 announced restrictions on the use of 2,4,5-T,

to areas remote from population.76

A Defense team under Dr Robert Cutting found no support 77

for suggestions of malformation amongst the Vietnamese.

An independent Commission appointed by AAAS consisting of

Arthur Westing, John Constable, Matthew Meselson and

Robert Cook. (respectively. Professor of Botany at Wyndham

College in Vermont; Professor of Surgery at Harvard

Medical School; a Harvard University Geneticist and a

Graduate student in Ecology in Yale), reported an increase

in stillbirths, spina bifida, cleft palate, just over half

of which were said to come from Saigon (which of course

was not sprayed). As has been seen, (Chapter VII), the

material upon which the views of this Committee were based

were inadequate for conclusions to be drawn and in any

event the suggested increased stillbirth and malformation

rates were much lower than those known to be universal

where records are properly kept.


Whatever the validity of the process the combination of

the Bionetics Research Laboratory Report and the

Vietnamese material was sufficient to lead to the

cessation of herbicide use in Vietnam. Agent Orange was

banned in April 1970 and in February 1971 the herbicide

program was officially abandoned.78

In September 1971 all stocks were removed from Vietnam to

find themselves ultimately. perhaps even incredibly,

disposed of by shipping to Johns ton Island, and destroyed

by high temperature incineration.

Between 1970 and 1978 at an ecological level the debate

bubbled away. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

sought to have 2,4,5-T withdrawn from the market and DOW

was significantly successful at court hearings because of 79

the lack of any scientific evidence of harmfulness.

A decade of persistence by EPA responding to social and

congressional pressure rather than evidence!

At the United Nations the "ecological" warfare debate




In March 1974 The National Academy of Science published

its report, "The Effects of Herbicides in South

Vietnam".81 This report took up the Vietnam data about

birth defects and other health consequences including

chromosomal damage but the whole question of health

effects and birth defects remained quiescent.

In particular there were no claims on Veterans'

Administration (USA) for chemically caused disabilities.

Nor were there claims in respect of birth defects. More

particularly there were no claims for the disabilities

known to be consequent upon TCDD exposure. namely,

porphyria cutanea tarda and chloracne.

The development of the Agent Orange story should be

contrasted with that of the normal epidemiological

progress. Epidemiological progress is often made by the

observation of a particular syndrome or set of symptoms

and signs associated with a particular exposure leading to

deduction by a trained observer of an hypothesis of a

cause and effect to be tested by proper scientific

inquiry. It involves a deductive leap from a large number

of particular cases to an hypothesis for testing.


The Agent Orange story was this process in reverse. One

man ascribed his cancer to being sprayed with Agent

Orange. Others then ascribed a huge range of other

disabilities to the same cause because of a wish to

believe, not by any observation of value.

The process described briefly in Chapter I bears


In June 1977 one Maude de Victor, a counsellor employed in

the Chicago Office of Veterans' Administration (US)

received a telephone call from the wife of Charles Owen.

Owen and his wife were convinced that his cancer had been

caused by a chemical which he had sprayed in Vietnam. He

had been a member of the US Airforce for about 24 years.

Shortly after his contact with Ms de Victor, Owen died.

Ms de Victor, herself a cancer sufferer in remission,

pursued Mrs Owen's claims to appeal following Owen's death

and the initial refusal of a pension.

She "called up" information from a computer terminal about

cancer victims who had served in Vietnam. She found what

seemed to her to be a large number of cancers.


She also closely questioned veterans seeking assistance

about their herbicide exposure. Between June and October

1977 she became convinced not only that Owen was correct

about the cause of his cancer but also that Agent Orange

caused a wide variety of disabilities amongst Vietnam

veterans and she prompted such veterans to file claims for

compensation, the first in October 1977.

Her "calling up"82 of cancer cases was noticed by her

superiors and since she was neither medically nor in any

other way qualified to look at individual files for

general or research purposes her order for the files was

cancelled. This she took as evidence of a cover up and

she began a personal crusade.83 The Veterans'

Administration responded. predictably enough, by requiring

medical support for the veterans' claims.

Maude de Victor approached the local television channel

and over the next few months Bill Kurtis put together a

documentary called. "Agent Orange - Vietnam's Deadly Fog",

first played in Chicago on 23 March 1978 and thereafter

receiving national coverage. The program was a



Its mixture of truth, half truth, falsehood and innuendo

all in an explosive emotional mix must, it seems, be

credited, (if that is the right word), with much of what

flowed thereafter.

Tne first human example used in the film was that of James

Simmonds. It is clear from the film that Simmonds was

prompted by De Victor both into remembering that he was

exposed to herbicides and also into ascribing his symptoms

to that exposure. She gathered together the group who

appeared in the program.

The documentary concentrated its attention on birth

defects, cancer and a general malady involving

non-specific symptoms but including in many cases fatigue,

loss of libido, anxiety, tingling of the extremities and

"just not feeling well".

As to the first, the program failed to mention that there

is no established case in either human beings or animals

where exposure of the father to chemicals has led to

deformities in children. The scientists shown on the

program are talking about birth deformities in monkeys,

rats and mice which occurred after heavy dosing of the

mothers in early pregnancy. The program makes a quantum


leap from massive doses in pregnant females to minuscule

doses in fathers.

That extrapolation from animal data to human beings is

never more than indicative and notoriously unreliable is

not even mentioned.

As well most cancer victims have an urge to seek out

causes for their disease. The program refers to tumours

in rats and mice but fails to mention 30 years of

uneventful use of the components of Agent Orange in

agriculture world wide.

The conclusions of the National Academy of Sciences Report

are omitted and instead rumours about the illnesses of

mountain people unvisited by its Committee members, birth

defect rates lower than those of comfortable western

cities are described as "high incidence" and unverified

claims of liver cancer being connected with Agent Orange

are emphasised.

That scientists like Dr J.R. Allen and Dr Barry Commoner

made public statements on television about the birth

defect question was irresponsible. As scientists, they

must have known that to extrapolate from pregnant mice


data to the exposure of potential fathers to spray, and to

predict birth defects in that context was scientific


It was particularly irresponsible because of the notorious

anxiety of those who parent birth-defected children to

ascribe some external cause to the defective.

The grim reality is that in 70% of cases the best of

medical science can assign no cause for a birth defect.

In all communities where reliable measurements have been

made between 3 and 10 percent of children have a

significant birth or congenital defect. The size of the

percentage depends upon the number of abnormalities

included and the length of time after birth that the

counting is done.

It must be borne in mind that a mere 100 years ago birth

defects were thought to be the consequence of the wrath of

God or the displeasure of the devil.

With increases in genetic knowledge in the late 19th

century and the early 20th century scientific emphasis was

on genetic factors. The popular representation of this

emphasis was "blood will tell".

E- 39

Between the first and second World Wars, the nutrition of

the mother was seen by many as all-important. If the

mother was malnourished, the child would be defective.

At the same time with an increase in psychological

knowledge and in particular in the emphasis on the power

of the sub-conscLous, psychological trauma to the mother

was postulated as a factor likely to be causing defects in

children - "My mother was frightened by a bull".

With Sir Norman Grieg's discovery of the connection

between birth defects and rubella (German Measles) came a

belief that all or most birth defects were the result of

some infectious process.

Following the discovery of the connection between

thalidomide and birth defects, the emphasis moved to

medicines and drug-caused birth defects.84

In the late 1960s and beyond, environmental contaminants

have become a popularly assigned cause for birth defects.

It must also be borne in mind that even in sophisticated

communities the bearing of a defective child is a matter


for some shame. Even educated middle-class parents simply

don't talk about the child who was born with six toes or

with a supernumerary nipple or with a cleft palate which

can be corrected. No-one had defective babies.

In more primitive societies, infanticide and birth

concealment are still common when defected children are


On the other hand, where a group of people have a reason

to concentrate upon birth defects or have a common reason

for wishing to assign those defects to a particular cause,

they are very inclined to talk about them amongst those in

the group.

As far as the Australian contingent to Vietnam is

concerned, if one assumes that it was 50,000 strong and

all male, statistics would indicate that they would father

of the order of 100,000 children. One would expect to

find amongst these children at least 2.000 or 3,000 with

serious abnormalities. In a context where such matters

are usually not even mentioned, such a number could indeed

look like an epidemic.


This Is the subject of Chapter VII. It is relevant

however, to emphasise the context into which the

controversy came.

So successful was the Kurtis film that the US National

press took up the cry and a veritable flood of Agent

Orange claims produced a predictable reaction from the

Veterans' Administration (VA) in the United States.

In April 1978 the VA called together a group of

consultants for advice on the herbicide guestion and a

number of meetings were held between July and September of

that year so as to evaluate current knowledge about

phenoxy herbicides. Brochures were prepared, for guidance

of staff and doctors setting out the biological actions of

herbicides used during the conflict and a special registry

was established for veterans who believed themselves to

have been exposed to Agent Orange.

Free and elaborate medical examinations were offered to

such Vietnam veterans.85 More than 150,000 Veterans

have availed themselves of this opportunity without any

pattern of chemical illness becoming apparent! All those

examined were included in the Agent Orange registry.


By October 1978 publicity had reached a pitch which

produced a Congressional Hearing before a Sub-Committee on

Medical Facilities and Benefits of the Congress Veterans'

Affairs Committee.

In April 1979 an inter-departmental committee called the

Advisory Committee On Health Related Effects of Herbicides

was chartered and met quarterly from June 1979. This

Committee includes representatives nominated by

Government, by Veterans' Organisations and Academic


The concern of the press, of veterans and of Congressmen

has continued unabated to the present day. Studies

contradicting the Agent Orange theory have received little

publicity and when publicity is received it is almost

invariably put beside outraged cries of "White-Wash" from

individual veterans or pseudo-scientists with an axe to


In Australia no claim of herbicide or other chemical

related disability was received by the Department of

Veterans' Affairs, Australia, prior to January 1979.

Meanwhile in the United States a helicopter crew member,

Paul Reutershan, becoming convinced by Maude de Victor

E-4 3

that his cancer was linked to the spray into which he had

flown in Vietnam retained Attorney Edward Gorman of

O'Hagen, Reilly and Gorman, who filed a claim for damages

for him in New York. Gorman was not experienced in that

field of civil litigation known as "toxic torts". The

specialist in litigation against the manufacturers and

distributors of chemical substances was Victor Yannacone,

who had as early as 1966 conducted litigation leading to

the banning in Suffolk County of DDT.

The intelligent urbane Long Island Attorney was consulted

by Gorman.

After Reutershan1 s death on 14 February 1978 his friend

and fellow Vietnam veteran, Frank McCarthy, contacted

Yannacone and urged him to pursue the case on behalf of

all Vietnam Veterans. McCarthy had formed a group called

"Agent Orange Victims International" and as the publicity

increased, so also did calls received by this group.

Yannacone rewrote the pleadings in Reutershan's case as a

"Class Action Complaint" and thereafter travelled the

United States with McCarthy.


As tape recordings of his speeches reveal, Yannacone is a

powerful public orator. To lawyers trained in the

Australian system, his performances are nothing short of

incredible. In tones reminiscent of a southern

revivalist, he reeled off lists of symptoms ranging from

tingling toes to headaches and told Vietnam Veterans that

they were symptoms of Agent Orange sickness. By his

evangelism at many public meetings, he not only gained

many clients but also spread fear of toxic reaction and

birth deformity far and wide.

The media quoted him, McCarthy, Kurtis and anyone else

that would say something sensational.

The spread of the infection to Australia is described in

Chapter I, and the role of John Evans which was important

is described in Chapter XII. How the myth became

something "everyone knew was true" is disclosed by the





















2 .

3 .

4 .


6 .

7 .

8 .

9 .

1 0 .


12 .





17 .

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, Houghton Mifflin, 1962 .

Ibid Chapter 1.

Ibid Chapter 13.

Ibid Chapter 11.

1968 Sierra Club and Ballantine, Paul Erlich, "The Population Bomb: Population Control or Race to Oblivion?".

New York Times, 28/4/69.

Commoner. The Poverty of Power: Energy and the Economic Crisis 1976.

Only One Earth, The Care and Maintenance of a Small Planet, New York: Norton, 1972.

Pages 40-43 "The Limits to Growth - The First Report of the Club of Rome.

Pages 29. 194-195.

1968, The "Progressive" Magazine, December 1975 pp. 22-23

Ibid p 24.

Washington Post, January 13, 1976, p A-2.

Carl C. Craft "Cancer Environment", Associated Press. January 13 1976.

EPA's "Environmental News" 26/2/1976.

Selikoff, "Perspectives in the Investigation of Health Hazards in the Chemical Industry".

Proceedings of the meeting of the Scientific Committee on Occupational Medicine. Milan Italy, December 12. 1975.

"The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis", Science 155 (1967) pp 1204. 1206.


18 .

19 .

2 0 .

2 1.

22 .

23 .

24 .

25 .



28 .





33 .

Don Price "Purists and Politicians" Science 163 (1969) 31.

Quoted by Tony Wagner. "The Ecology of

Revolution" in Ecotactics p 43.

Follett, 1973, Chicago pp 133-134. Lee Loevinger quoted in "The Disaster Lobby; Prophets of

Ecological Doom and Other Absurdities".

William 0. Douglas. "The Three Hundred Year War : A Chronical of Ecological Disaster", New York, Random House and Alfred A. Knopf, 1972 p 225.

Norman McRae quoted in "The Disaster Lobby" p 135.

Myrdal, G. "Economics of an Improved

Environment", in Who Speaks for Earth?

Population Institute Stockholm, Edit Maurice F.Strong (New York: Norton. 1973) pp. 70-71, 76.

Lord Zuckerman "Science. Technology, and

Environmental Management," in Who Speaks for Earth? pp 138-9.

At the Stockholm Conference, quoted in Who Speaks For Earth? pp 23-24.

Berkeley California, University of California Press 1977, pp 299-300.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "United States in Opposition".. In the First World and the Third World: Essays on the New International Economic Order, University of Rochester Policy Center Publications. 1978 pp 119, 131.

Paul Johnson "Enemies of Society", New York; Atheneum Press, 1977 p 88.

Ackerknecht E.H, A Short History of Medicine.

Radiobiology Laboratory U.C., San Francisco, 1979.

Ackernecht Supra.

Prologue FN 2.

Penzias and Wilson - Noble Prize 1978.


34 .

35 .

36 .

37 .

38 .

39 .



42 .

43 .

44 .




Beninson et al 1977. Eisenbud 1979.

1975 Report.

Eklund et al 1978, Herrmann 1978.


1971, Herriott et al.

DiPaolo et al 1966.

Handler 1979.

Shepard, "Catalog" 1976.

Natusch 1978, Friberg et al 1978.

Coffee beans contain caffeine see Weinburger et al, 1978 Nawar et al 1978; Safrole, an ingredient of ginger, black pepper and cinnamon, is reported to be a carcinogen and a mutagen see J Miller et al 1979, Nagao, Sugimura et al 1978, Dorange et al 1977; Apples, grapefruit, oranges, peaches, concord grapes, lemons, pears, pineapples and

raspberries all contain acetaldehyde which is reported to be mutagenic (EPA, Potential

Industrial, 1977). It is also to be found in

wine and is a major metabolite of ethyl alcohol; NAS, Drinking, 1977. Carrots, potatoes and rice all contain oestrogens reportedly carcinogenic (IARC Volume 6 1974); Patulin reported to be

carcinogenic 1978; NIOSH, 1976 IARC, Volume 10 1976. Alfatoxins have been found in a huge range of food plants, peanuts, dried chile peppers, haricot beans, mung beans, peas, and sweet

potatoes (Wyllie et al 1977); Note too, that Vitamin A and Vitamin B12, both absolutely

essential to life are reported to be carcinogens. Sugimura 1976, Temcharoen et al 1978.

NAS Particulate 1972.

Weisburger 1979.

Nagao, Sugimura et al 1978.

Higginson "Multiplicity of Factors Involved in Cancer Patterns and Trends" Cancer Symposium 1 March 1979 p 5 NYC.


48 .

49 .



52 .

53 .

54 .

55 .

56 .







63 .

64 .


NIH Publication 79-1610, Table 1. Trends 1920-76, National Center for Health Statistics, June 1978.

Cancer Facts and Figures 1979, American Cancer Society, p 6.

"News from the National Research Council" January 16, 1982. p 4

Lesley Stahl, "The Politics of Cancer" CBS, 1976, transcript.

Exhibit 1959 p 1194.

Exhibit No. 1959. p 1240.

Ibid at p 1240.

Ibid at p 1256.

Doll and Peto, Supra Table of Estimates, p 1256.

Segi, M. "Age Adjusted Death Rates for Cancer for . Selected Sites in 52 Countrile in 1973" p 25.

Edith Efron, "The Apocalyptics". Simon & Shuster. NYC 1984, p 427.

Ibid p 474.

C.V. Collins, Herbicide Operations in South-East Asia, Supra, H.Q. (Chapter 1) Pacific Air Forces, San Francisco 1967.

Alistair Hay, "The Chemical Scythe", Chapter 7 refers to a personal interview on 11 January 1979.Exhibit 1283 pp. 152

Petition to President L.B. Johnson, 14 February 1967. Exhibit 1283 pp 153-4.

MR I Report, "Assessment of Ecological Effects of Extensive or Repeated Use of Herbicides", House et al Exhibit 101.

MRI Report, Supra p 207.

Tschirley, Defoliation in Vietnam. Science Volume 163, pp 779-786 (1969).


66 .

67 .

68 .

69 .



72 .

73 .


74 .

75 .

76 .

77 .


78 .

A t e c h n o l o g y a s s e s s m e n t of the V i e t n a m

d e f o l i a t i o n m a t t e r , a r e p o r t of the S u b - C o m m i t t e e on S c i e n c e , R e s e a r c h and D e v e l o p m e n t . of the C o m m i t t e e on S c i e n c e and A s t r o n a u t i c s , U.S. H o u s e of R eps, at E x h i b i t 1283 pp 156.

Ibid p 49.

A n t h r o p o l o g i s t , M a r g a r e t M e a d , p e r c e i v e d the d i l e m m a r e f e r r e d to by m e in f o o t n o t e 7 w h e n she said t h a t the issue w a s " w a r f a r e , not

d e f o l i a t i o n " . S e e S u p r a F N 1.

P f e i f f e r and O r i a n s , M i s s i o n to V i e t n a m ,

S c i e n t i f i c R e s e a r c h 9/6/69, 23/6 / 6 9 .

P r e s i d e n t i a l S c i e n t i f i c A d v i s o r y C o m m i t t e e ' s R e p o r t to the J o i n t C h i e f s of Staff, M a y 9, 1963.

R e a d i l y d i s t i n g u i s h a b l e f r o m e.g. a c n e v u l g a r i s , f u n g a l i n f e c t i o n s and o t h e r t y p i c a l t r o p i c a l s k i n d i s o r d e r s . S i g n i f i c a n t l y , t h e r e has not b e e n a

s i n g l e c a s e of c h l o r a c n e d i a g n o s e d a m o n g s t the

A u s t r a l i a n T a s k F o r c e .

E x h i b i t 1198 p 7, 1550.

I A R C W o r k i n g G r o u p R e p ort, Lyon, C o n f e r e n c e J u n e 1978.

US N a t i o n a l T e c h n i c a l I n f o r m a t i o n S e r v i c e D o c u m e n t N o s P B - 2 2 3 - 1 5 9 , 160, 161 c i t e d in

E x h i b i t 906 at IV - 77.

N A S E x h i b i t 903 C h a p t e r VII, p 53, q u o t i n g the

N e w s p a p e r s T i n Sang, and C h i n h Luan.

S t a t e m e n t by L e e D u B r i d g e , 2 9 / 1 0 / 6 9 . E x e c u t i v e

O f f i c e of the P r e s i d e n t , O f f i c e of S c i e n c e and

T e c h n o l o g y .

C u t t i n g et a l , " H y d a t i d i f o r m m o l e s and S t i l l b i r t h s in R V N 1 9 6 0 - 6 9 " US G o v e r n m e n t P r i n t i n g O f f ice, W a s h i n g t o n D.C. 1970.

D O D B a c k g r o u n d R e p o r t on H e r b i c i d e O p e r a t i o n s in S o u t h V i e t n a m , A p r i l 1971.





82 .

83 .

84 .

85 .

86 .

79 . See 1980 Pre-Hearing Brief risks associated with the registered uses of 2.4.5-T and Silvex, U.S. EPA. FIFRA Docket No 415 et seq.

Swedish Prime Minister, Olaf Palme. June 6. 1972. Plenary Meeting UN Conference on the Human


Exhibit 703. 903.

By which is meant seeking of information from the computer system.

Personal Communication to Senior Counsel

Assisting, March 1984, Victor Yannacone.

Lenz, 1961; McBride, 1961.

At a cost of more than $21,000,000! V.A. Claims Chief, Dorothy Starbuck, Personal Communication.

Chapter I. p 47.