The Ecological and Health Effects of the Vietnam War Subject of International Symposium at Yale

An international conference examining the ecological and health effects resulting from the use of chemical, biological and physical agents during the Vietnam War will take place at Yale University September 13-15, 2002.

Titled “Yale Vietnam Conference 2002: The Ecological and Health Effects of the Vietnam War,” the event is being presented by the Schools of Nursing and Forestry & Environmental Studies in association with the Vietnam Veterans of America.

The event will bring together leading researchers from the United States, Vietnam, Canada and Europe. The scientists will assess the environmental effects of, among other agents, the herbicide Agent Orange/Dioxin, on humans and on the environment and ecosystems of Vietnam. The symposium also will address the carcinogenic and non-cancerous conditions resulting from the use of herbicides and other agents on maternal health and reproductive outcomes; growth and development of offspring, and diseases of the immune, hepatic, neurological, and metabolic systems.

“Although peace has come to Vietnam, the taint of battle remains,” said Linda Schwartz, DRPH., M.S.N., R.N., a research scientist at the Yale School of Nursing and chair of the Health Committee at the Vietnam Veterans of America. “Many of my friends who served in the Vietnam War are dying. These are veterans who don’t yet have an answer. The Yale Vietnam Conference will provide a forum for the exchange of knowledge and for planning mutual efforts to address the unresolved questions which linger from a war now three decades in the past.”

Schwartz has a long history of involvement in veterans’ affairs. Retired from the U.S. Air Force Nurse Corps and a Vietnam veteran, she is an advocate and activist who has devoted her nursing practice to improving the lives of America’s 26 million veterans.

Arthur Galston, professor emeritus at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, said an estimated 20 million gallons of Agent Orange was used in Vietnam to clear dense vegetation to better track North Vietnamese troops, as well as to destroy their crops.

“The use of Agent Orange as a defoliant and herbicide in Vietnam was the largest chemical warfare operation in history, producing considerable ecological as well as public health damage,” said Galston, who will speak at the conference. “This conference will chronicle and highlight this damage in the hope that this action might contribute toward ultimate remediation of the damage.”

The keynote speaker will be David Lamb, a journalist and author of “Vietnam, Now: A Reporter Returns,” in which he tells the story of his experience with two Vietnams - the embattled and the post war. Other speakers will include Kenneth Olden, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS); Linda Birnbaum, director of the Dioxin Division of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Bill Farland, director of Research and Policy for the EPA, and Congressman Rob Simmons and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.

Among Vietnamese scientists and government officials who will attend are Hoang Dinh Cau, professor at the Ministry of Health in Vietnam; Vo Quy, founder of the Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies of the Vietnam National University, and PhanThi Phi Phi from the Department of Immunology and Pathology at Hanoi Medical University.

Thomas Corey, national president of the Vietnam Veterans of America said, “This conference is a milestone for American veterans and the people of Vietnam to look towards uncovering and understanding the major health consequences from exposure to Agent Orange.”

The Yale Vietnam 2002 Conference is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Science.

Registration for the conference is $200, with a discount for students. The deadline is Sept. 2. Interested persons may register online at www.nursing.yale.edu/news/

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