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Agent Orange study to show significant damage

Jul 28, 2006 | The New Zealand Herald A report out today was expected to show that all New Zealand Vietnam War veterans exposed to the defoliant Agent Orange may have suffered genetic damage.
The Massey University study is also expected to show that the genetic damage caused by exposure to toxins in the herbicide may affect both the children and grandchildren of servicemen.
All 25 Manawatu veterans involved in the research are believed to have had genetic degeneration, some of it significant.
Veterans and their families who have battled with serious health problems and birth defects have argued for 30 years that Agent Orange has had a genetic impact upon them and their children.
Successive governments have said there was no proof the veterans had been exposed, let alone hurt.
Two years ago, a select committee confirmed that Agent Orange was sprayed on New Zealand soldiers in Vietnam.
Ex-Vietnam Servicemen's Association spokesman Chris Mullane said the study endorsed the findings of overseas research and confirmed what they had known for decades.
It was, however, good to have a study which specifically targeted the New Zealand experience, he told National Radio.
Mr Mullane acknowledged the study was a small one and hoped the Government would now support a wider study involving more veterans and their progeny.
A research team based at Massey's Institute of Molecular BioSciences studied what is known as "sister chromatid exchange" in cells. This test analyses the way chromosomes reproduce themselves. It looks for clastogens, which are environmental agents that cause genetic damage and can cause cancer.
A joint working group involving the Ex-Vietnam Servicemen's Association and the Government, set up to study the health of Vietnam veterans and look at the possibility of paying compensation to those who have suffered health problems, is due to report back soon.
Veteran Affairs Minister Rick Barker has had the report since April.
Mr Mullane said he hoped the findings of the latest research would be considered by the group and would strengthen the families' case for compensation.
The full results of the research are due to be released later today.
The Green Party said the study showed the Government should reconsider its position on paying compensation.
"This study indicates these men have suffered irreversible effects from their exposure to the defoliant during their time in Vietnam," said health spokeswoman Sue Kedgley.
"It is time the Government acknowledged this and gave the veterans the compensation they have been seeking."

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