Vietnam vets are owed an apology

Published: Wed 6 Oct 2004 09:35 AM
Vietnam vets are owed an apology
Green MP Sue Kedgley today called on the Government to offer a full public apology to veterans of the Vietnam War for the refusal of successive administrations to accept their exposure to Agent Orange and to provide adequate treatment for the illness they and their children had suffered as a result.
“In the face of mounting evidence, successive governments downplayed and denied the health effects of exposure, and took no proactive steps to monitor the health of veterans,” said Ms Kedgley, the Green Health spokesperson. “The Government now accepts that the vets were exposed to a toxic environment, and so it should apologise for thirty years of denial.
Ms Kedgley called on the Government to immediately set up a programme to monitor dioxin exposure for veterans and their children.
“Vietnam veterans should undergo genetic testing to assess whether there are inter-generational effects from dioxin contamination,” said Ms Kedgley. “Professor Al Rowland is already studying nuclear test veterans, and his research should extend to Vietnam veterans.
“Even if there is only limited or suggestive evidence of an association between exposure to dioxin and a disorder, veterans and their children deserve the benefit of the doubt and should be offered full medical treatment.”
Ms Kedgley said the lessons of Vietnam needed to be applied to all New Zealanders who had been exposed to cancer-causing substances like dioxin, particularly the victims of poisoning from the Dow plant in New Plymouth and also the soldiers and support staff who had been exposed to depleted uranium in Iraq.
Ms Kedgley said the Paritutu residents were the New Zealand equivalent of Vietnam veterans. “They too have been exposed to a toxic environment and have been subject to thirty years of denial and procrastination. They should be given the same free medical treatment and specialist assistance that veterans are entitled to.
“Depleted uranium is another ticking time-bomb,” Ms Kedgley warned. “Even a tiny particle of uranium dust can have significant health effects.
“The New Zealand engineers who have just returned from Iraq served in an area that was exposed to the highest levels of depleted uranium in the region. This exposes them to the risks of serious long term health effects, including cancer and birth defects.
Ms Kedgley said the government should monitor and treat the engineers to ensure that they do not suffer some of the ongoing horrible effects of depleted uranium, which may take many years to surface.

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