| Poisoned by Dow: Worldwide
Dow has profited from the contamination and suffering of thousands
of people around the globe. These are a few of their stories.
Tran thi Hong Ha, Agent Orange
"...At eight months of age we realised she had
physical and mental growth retardation and the diagnosis was cerebral
palsy. She stays in bed all day, cannot sit nor stand. She must
be served everything in bed, including her personal hygiene."
Huynh thi Phuong, Agent Orange
"In 1979 I had a second child. Due to 12 tumors
clinging to my uterus and ovaries, doctors had to perform caesarean
and forceps procedure to deliver my baby."
Pham thi Hao, Agent Orange victim
"I was pregnant five times and had three miscarriages.
From 1999 I was hospitalized in the Central Hospital of Obstetrics
and Gynecology in Hanoi because of severe gynaenological complications
Betty Damore, Michigan dioxin
"When the DEQ tested our neighborhood, the results
showed levels from three parts per trillion total toxic equivalence
(TEQ) by Stroebel Rd to 90 parts per trillion TEQ approximately
50 feet from the back of our property line."
Kathy Henry, Michigan dioxin
"There seems to be no worms in the floodplain
soils that I have dug up over the years. Some of the mice my cats
would catch and bring home had large tumors in their livers. The
two cats that ate a lot of mice also died of strange cancers. And
of course there were the fish, walleye people would catch during
the walleye festival that had tumors on them."
Juan Dominguez, Attorney for
"The DBCP was used and sprayed in wide swathes
onto unsuspecting people who lived within and around the banana
plantations, some of whom never even saw a DBCP barrel."
Flor de Maria Mendoza &
Jose Romero, Nemagon victims
Ana's parents must feed her a constant supply of
medicine to control her liver inflammation, frequent fevers, pneumonia,
and diarrhea while Ana sits in a wheelchair, staring blankly into
Cristobal Acetuno, Nemagon
Cristobal and his wife had been mistaking the cancerous
tumor in her stomach for pregnancy until one day when she lost consciousness,
she was rushed to the hospital, and underwent a nearly fatal operation
that revealed her terminal disease.
Manuel Guido Montoya, Nemagon
"Walking through the plantations,
we breathed in the vapors, I'd get headaches, a bloody nose, stomach-aches...You
put up with a lot of pain."
Rhonda Bartle, New Zealand
“I have all the anecdotes…of the foam
that flew on a certain breeze and landed on the lawn, leaving burnt
orange circles. Of native bushes that failed on one side. Of curtains
that rotted against the sills. Of our mother crying: ‘Shut
the windows. The wind has changed.’”
Tran thi Hong Ha
Agent Orange victim, 45 years old
"My husband worked and was exposed indirectly to unknown chemicals
of US army from 1972-1976 in Quang Tri old citadel, Tay Ninh and
Khe Sanh. He ate food and drank stream water in these regions.
Hoang Ha My
"I was first pregnant in 1986 with a breech presentation.
The foetal heart sound was lost during labour and the foetus died
several hours before delivery.
"My second daughter Hoang Ha My, born in 1987, is now 16 years
old. The labor and delivery was normal. But at eight months of age
we realised she had physical and mental growth retardation and the
diagnosis was cerebral palsy. She stays in bed all day, cannot sit
nor stand. She must be served everything in bed, including her personal
"In 1989 I was pregnant again but lost the baby in the second
month. My fourth and fifth children are almost normal.
"The illness of Hoang Ha My, brings upset to my whole family.
We have faced many psychological and economic difficulties. Our
life is really not stable. My family wants to represent ourselves
and other families who have similar circumstances."
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Huynh thi Phuong
Agent Orange victim, 63 years old
"After graduating from Hanoi Medical University in 1965 I
returned to the South and worked in a Vaccine Production Center
in the Mid-Central area, located along Pui stream and Ngheu, Oa,
"In 1969, when we were working in our lab, we smelt an unpleasant
odor. We quickly ran out and saw a big airplane flying slowly over
leaving a dense foggy cloud. We realized it was Agent Orange as
just after several minutes, the leaves on the trees fell down. We
had to rescue what we had cultivated for survival.
"We rushed to our cassava garden and wallowed in the toxic
air without thinking of the danger. All of us tried to save our
products and we caught the toxic agent. We soaked our products in
the stream nearby, but the stream was also toxic. We boiled cassava
carefully to eat but the odor remained.
"There was no other choice. Daily, we had to eat the foods
in these areas. Weeks after that, trees around died. My friends
Luong, Toan and Hung had haematoria. In 1972 due to a recurrent
illness I went to the North for treatment.
"I married in 1972 and had an underweight boy, but luckily
he was normal. In 1979 I had a second child. Due to 12 tumors clinging
to my uterus and ovaries, doctors had to perform caesarean and forceps
procedure to deliver my baby.
"They had to remove my entire uterus and ovaries due to these
tumors. At that time we had no drugs (our country was isolated -
closed) for maintaining the family life of a young couple.
"My younger sister Huynh thi Phuong Anh, born in 1943, who
lived and worked as bank officer in Quang Nam Province from 1968
to 1971 also had a uterine fibroid tumor which was removed in 1990
"None of our relatives had this kind of disease. It was terrible.
I condemn individuals who bring these consequences to me and my
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Pham thi Hao
Agent Orange victim, 48 years old
Pham thi Hao after chemotherapy
"As young volunteer, I worked as a road worker or a cook at
Ashaw. Although I was not directly exposed to Agent Orange, I lived
in the regions with dead trees. I used to forest vegetables like
cassava, as foods and spring water. I fear I acquired exposure indirectly.
"I was pregnant five times and had three miscarriages. From
1999 I was hospitalized in the Central Hospital of Obstetrics and
Gynecology in Hanoi because of severe gynaenological complications
"I needed six courses of chemo-therapy. No cancer nor reproductive
disorders were previously documented among my relatives."
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Michigan dioxin victim, 55 years old
"I am 55 and have always lived on Stroebel road. I grew up
here. The property we live on was owned by my grandfather. We are
about a quarter of a mile back from the river. Our property is connected
by Stroebel drain to the Tittabawassee River. As water levels change
due to heavy rains or melting snow, the floodwaters flow into Stroebel
drain flooding the back portion of our property. Sometimes we have
8 foot of water in our back yard.
"As a kid my family would mention the river was polluted.
Dow was mentioned. You could see a yellow haze in the sky when you
drove through Midland and you had to roll up your windows near Dow's
factories. In February 2001 I heard about the dioxin levels around
our properties. I had no doubts it was from Dow Chemical.
"It is difficult to know whether health problems my family
and I suffer are a consequence of the dioxin. However, it is known
that dioxin may cause cancer, diabetes, hormonal problems, and a
list of other problems.
"Why do we have a clustering of individuals with a multiple
sclerosis diagnosis and cancer? It is known that there are much
higher incidents of thyroid problems in this community.
"When the DEQ tested our neighborhood, the results showed
levels from three parts per trillion total toxic equivalence (TEQ)
by Stroebel Rd to 90 parts per trillion TEQ approximately 50 feet
from the back of our property line.
"Government departments have sent out serial newsletters with
recommendations of what residents should do to limit their exposure
to dioxin. We have not had a garden for three years because this
area was flooded in the 1986 flood. As far as cutting grass, my
husband always wears a mask. If there is a need to go to the end
of our property line we wear boots and specific work clothes.
"Less than a quarter of a mile from us people have levels
of more than two thousand parts per trillion TEQ in their backyard.
Their kids are older but they have young grandchildren that play
in their backyard. Children are closer to the ground and they are
"Dow representatives have mentioned people may not need to
use their property entirely and if they are aware that area is contaminated
don't use it. It is our property and we should be able to use it
as we see fit.
"We built our home here and put our life savings into our
home. It is a nice area, close to work and shopping. We routinely
see wild turkey, deer, and other wildlife. Our youngest is in high
school so we have no intentions of moving at this time.
"We may want to move in the future but because we live in
the floodplain our property has been declared by the DEQ as a waste
facility. Being a responsible property owner it is our moral responsibility
to tell potential buyers about this dioxin contamination.
"Our kids are aged 17 to 24. There should be a trust fund
set up for medical monitoring. They are young now but what may occur
in the future for them health wise remains to be seen. Our lifestyles
have changed as a result of the contamination.
"Dow continues to want more studies done. This has been an
ongoing problem. Why duplicate studies that have already been done
by state agencies.
"Dow needs to address this problem and clean it up now. For
two years there continues to be a dispute about how to warn people
about the contamination on park signs. Needless to say innocent
children, adults, and family pets continue to be exposed to dioxin.
Dow suggested placing wood chips on frequently used areas in local
parks but after the most recent flood those wood chips would have
been washed away. Their solution is like putting a small bandage
on a massive bleeding wound."
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Michigan dioxin victim
"My life changed forever the day I read a Saginaw newspaper
article that local environmental groups had discovered state agencies
had been withholding information about contamination of the Tittabawassee
River with a dangerous toxin called dioxin. I had never heard of
it before, but had a sick feeling in my stomach.
"You see, many years prior to this, I had come to suspect
there was something very wrong with our property, but had no idea
what. I am an avid wildlife and bird watcher, and had noticed there
were basically no rabbits living around us even though we have perfect
habitat for them. A stray one would show up once in awhile, but
they were never around for long.
"A species of woodpecker known to live in the area, a Flicker,
who's primary diet is ants, never could seem to establish a population
here, where other types who primarily ate other insects off of trees
"There seems to be no worms in the floodplain soils that I
have dug up over the years. Some of the mice my cats would catch
and bring home had large tumors in their livers. The two cats that
ate a lot of mice also died of strange cancers. And of course there
were the fish, walleye people would catch during the walleye festival
that had tumors on them.
"There are actually very few species that seem to thrive in
this area, considering what should be here.
"Over the past two years, I have attended many meetings and
find it disturbing to hear the stories from many, many families
that live on the river. There doesn't seem to be one household that
does not have multiple illnesses in their families. Is this normal?
"I feel that in the greater community, there is still much
denial as to how bad the situation really is. People don't want
to believe there is such a problem, for various reasons, and accept
Dow's misinformation with open arms, hoping the problem will just
go away. Sad.
"After a year of trying to find answers and solutions from
state agencies, environmental groups, politicians and even Dow,
we felt our only option was to file a law suit against the polluter.
It was obvious to us by then that we needed to protect ourselves.
"We also fully support the environmental groups in their efforts
to get Dow to clean up the contamination disaster they created.
It is the only right thing to do.
"This is an effort to correct something that is terribly wrong
and needs to be fixed.
"But for now, every day I wake up and look out into the yard
that I once loved, felt tremendous joy in being here, and only feel
sadness. I no longer care about the yard, flowers, birds and animals.
When I see the flock of wild turkeys pecking on the ground looking
for food, I want to cry.
"The State of Michigan tested our yard, and the highest level
of 12 samples they took, was 1130 parts per trillion TEQ."
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A US lawyer representing the Association of Workers and Former Workers
with Claims against Nemagon, (ASOTRAEXDAN) (1)
Roberto is only one of many children
suffering from physical deformities in the banana-growing
area of Chinandega in Nicaragua.
"The DBCP was used and sprayed in wide swathes onto unsuspecting
people who lived within and around the banana plantations, some
of whom never even saw a DBCP barrel.
"The law is clear that once you place a dangerous product
in the stream of commerce, you are liable for harm caused, no matter
where it is ultimately used.
"The scientific evidence is abundantly clear that sterility
is caused by DBCP. Moreover, there is ample scientific evidence
that DBCP causes cancer and also birth defects.
"[The companies] simply do not want to be responsible in any
court, in any country, or in any forum... It is simple why they
do not wish to defend themselves and it is because they know full
well they will lose."
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Flor de Maria Mendoza & Jose Romero
Flor de Maria Mendoza and her husband Jose Romero worked on banana
plantations during the 1970s. They have four children. Two died
at birth. Their 11 -year old daughter, Ana Maria, was born with
physical deformities that do not allow her to walk, talk, or grasp.
Ana's parents must feed her a constant supply of medicine to control
her liver inflammation, frequent fevers, pneumonia, and diarrhea
while Ana sits in a wheelchair, staring blankly into space. (2)
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Cristobal Acetuno picked and bagged bananas on plantations for
eight years. He is now nearly blind, often feels nauseous, has no
appetite and lives with rashes on his skin and lesions on his feet.
Cristobal's two sons suffer from similar ailments that require medication,
and his wife, also a former banana worker, has stomach cancer. Cristobal
and his wife had been mistaking the cancerous tumor in her stomach
for pregnancy until one day when she lost consciousness, she was
rushed to the hospital, and underwent a nearly fatal operation that
revealed her terminal disease.
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Manuel Guido Montoya
Manuel Guido Montoya was unable to have the children he once hoped
would ease his workload and bring home a few extra dollars. Years
ago, he tried to start a family but the woman left him once she
realized he was sterile. He says he and his co-workers were drenched
in the pesticide.
"Walking through the plantations, we breathed in the vapors,
I'd get headaches, a bloody nose, stomach-aches...You put up with
a lot of pain." (3)
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New Zealand dioxin victim
I might have been a fiction writer in a former life, but these
days as a journalist, I mostly deal in facts. The fact is, I grew
up in the shadow of a Dow chemical factory, in the suburb of Paritutu,
New Plymouth, during all the dioxin years.
I lived there from 1957 to 1971, from age 3 to 17 years. Our house
was the first on Simons St.
As the crow flies, it was the closest to the chemical plant - less
than 500m away. The house number was 13, but it never struck anyone
as being unlucky. Instead, it promised a blessed, good life in a
new suburb, on a small but spectacular coastal peninsular, a short
walk to the beach or down to the wharf to fish.
Touted as a great place to raise a family, the suburb of Paritutu
was indeed a kids' paradise. We chased pheasants through the lupins
and picked lilies from the creeks. Ate blackberries off the bushes
and sucked sourgrass stalks. We walked miles to school and dawdled
home again. And the sun shone, as it always seems to do in retrospective
At the time my father bought the property, the land was zoned residential.
I still remember his frustration and anger when he was suddenly
advised by the local council that everything over our back fence
was to be re-zoned industrial. Meetings were held, he and other
residents argued, but eventually re-zoning went ahead. We watched
Ivon Watkins Dow Ltd grow box-like on our landscape, followed by
VetMed Laboratories, Youngs Rubber Company and an oil tank farm.
My father was very protective of his five daughters. He did his
best to keep us safe. Yet never once was he privy to the dangers
the Dow chemical plant imposed.
I have all the anecdotes, as every child who grew up in that neighbourhood
does. Of the foam that flew on a certain breeze and landed on the
lawn, leaving burnt orange circles. Of native bushes that failed
on one side. Of curtains that rotted against the sills. Of our mother
crying: "Shut the windows. The wind has changed". Of visitors
complaining of the all-invasive stench and wrinkling up their noses,
not only at the smell, but at us crazy people, living within breathing
distance of some chemical industry.
Why didn't we move, they asked? "Where to?" our father,
a postal worker, replied. Who could afford to move? Who would buy
the house, anyway? No, this was it, he said, this was "our"
house, and we were there for good. It can't be too bad or they wouldn't
have let those buggers build that factory there.
My father collected the empty chemical drums that lay around in
their puddles of orange sludge, washed them and planted trees in
them that wouldn't survive.
Down on the sand at Back Beach, we walked in the waves where the
oily slick from the effluent pipe left orange marks on our skin.
Later, my mother served in the Dow canteen, bringing home left-over
food. Everything delivered "tasted funny", but to kids
of the 50s and 60s, a raspberry bun was a raspberry bun, a doughnut
a doughnut. We ate the food, anyway. When she took on work as a
cleaner at VetMed, those of us still at home took turns to help
her scrub the black rubber boot marks off the floor.
Miraculously, I escaped the explosion of 1972, though my parents
and three of my sisters still lived close enough to eye-witness
the blast. I have since learned that there have been two dozen such
explosions around the world, and they are all listed as world dioxin-contaminated
disasters, but nowhere will you find the Paritutu explosion recorded
on a global map.
Ignorance is not bliss, but then sometimes neither is higher learning.
Here we are in 2006, and as a diminished family, we've come to understand
what prolonged exposure to dioxin has done to us.
Journalist Melanie Reid's remarkably easy to digest, but hard to
Let Us Spray documentary has aired (on TV3, October 23). Dioxin
is all over the country, but this time it's in the news. Finally,
there is fallout that's not coming air borne from the direction
It's been proven that the Government knew of the dangers and chose
not to tell us. It's been proven they kept silent and then went
so far as to actually manipulate data, gathered from Paritutu residents
through serum testing, to ensure the wool was pulled completely
over our eyes. The test process itself was flawed. Government policy
seems to have been money over people. A multi-national company over
native New Zealanders.
The serum testing was nothing more than window dressing, damage
control taken to new heights. Why are we surprised? This is the
same Ministry of Health which expected us to be happy with the appointment
of Professor Allan Smith to take a fresh new look at the study.
Smith was caught on camera saying publicly how great he thought
that serum study was.
For the record, I didn't front up for the serum testing, as I already
believed it was designed to do exactly what it did - let health
officials off the hook instead of making them accountable. But I'll
stand head of the line when it comes to DNA testing. I can no longer
deny that dioxin from the Dow factory has damaged me in ways I couldn't
Let's get personal here. I keep good health. I used to think, somehow,
I'd escaped the dioxin threat. Yes, I had a sister who died of cancer
at 36. Yes, she'd had a baby who died at 8 months gestation but
was delivered full term. Yes, one of those photos taken by midwife
Hyacinth Henderson - who suddenly found herself in the midst of
a birth defect epidemic and got her camera out - was probably of
my unknown and unnamed niece. And yes, my father died of heart disease
at 59 and my mother of cancer a decade later, but me? Nope, not
me. Never me. Somehow, I remained immune, as my own five children
When advised by those in a position to know that my dioxin levels
were likely to be higher than those of Vietnam vets directly sprayed
with Agent Orange, I shook my head and dismissed the idea. Nope.
Couldn't be. They said other awful things: if my levels turned out
to be lower than expected, then it was probably because I'd breastfed
all five of my babies, and dioxin is secreted through breast milk.
"What do you mean?" I asked. Everyone knows that breast
is best. Isn't it?
Still, I filed all that away and tried to forget about it, which
was fine until the next generation appeared. So, talk to me about
intergenerational genetic damage. Ask me about heart defects and
hydrocephalus, because I'm something of a pseudo-expert now. New
members of our family have been born with the exact same conditions
as those commonly found in third generation Vietnam vets. I put
my hand up to be counted.
This article appeared in the New Zealand Herald on November
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(1) Beachy, B. "Farmworkers wage legal battle
against US companies that poisoned them." The Nicaragua
(3) Gonzales, D and Loewenberg, S. "Banana
Workers Get Day in Court." New York Times, Jan. 18,
2003. Available at http://www.misko.com/library/BananaWorkersGetDayinC.pdf.