A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 February 13, 1993

The First Citizens’ Conference on Dioxin:

The Transcript, 263 Pages, edited by Paul Connett and Billie Elmore, available from:
N.C. WARN, 5301 Rolling Hill Rd., Sanford, N.C. 27330. Tel: 919-774-9566. Fax: 919-774-7498.
Checks Payable to First Citizens’ Conference on Dioxin. Costs per copy:
United States: $28 (includes $3 postage); Europe: $37 (includes $12 air mail postage): Canada:$30 (includes $5 postage.)
SPECIAL OFFER: Transcript and Overview Video of the Conference available for $35 plus postage (see above).
For details on ordering the Conference Videos see Waste Not # 229.

BACKGROUND TO THE CONFERENCE: We are happy to tell our readers that the transcript and a ten part video series of the First Citizens’ Conference on Dioxin, held on September 21-22, 1991, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, are now ready after 17 long months of editing and all the other chores that go into such an undertaking. But it was worth it. Both the transcript and the videos are a must for any citizens’ group battling an incinerator, the chemical industry, a chlorine-using paper & pulp mill, or anyone made angry by government officials who lie to the public. In other issues of Waste Not (#s 160,162,165) we have described the Conference. Never before had so many strands of the network battling for truth on the dioxin issue come together in one room. We had the Vietnam Vets who have battled for so long and so hard for justice on the Agent Orange issue. We had several of the people who have been critical in giving the flagging Agent Orange campaign new strength over the last few years: Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, former head of Naval Operations in Vietnam; Dr. Richard Clapp who headed a team of eight scientists who reviewed the dioxin health data for the American Legion; and Marc Smolonsky, the brilliant young investigator for the late U.S. Congressman Ted Weiss, who exposed the White House role in the Agent Orange cover-up. Then we had top-notch scientists like Dr. George Lucier of the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences; Drs. Hardell and Eriksson, cancer specialists from Sweden; Dr. Arnold Schecter who has written over 100 papers on dioxin; Dr. Kees Olie from Holland who co-authored the first paper, published in 1977, that found dioxin in municipal waste incinerators; Dr. Alastair Hay, author of the exceptional book The Chemical Scythe; Dr. Peter Kahn, a biochemist from Rutgers University; and Tom Webster, who is currently on the U.S. EPA’s Dioxin Reassessment review panel. These scientists were able to report on the very latest scientific research on dioxin. Then we had other scientists like Dr. Barry Commoner, America’s leading environmentalist; Dr. Otmar Wasserman a toxicologist from Kiel, Germany; Dr. Mary O’Brien, Dr. Ken Geiser and Renate Kroesa, who were able to relate the dioxin issue to the larger, social, political and economic issues impacting our communities and our planet. We also had dioxin sleuths like Carol Van Strum and Paul Merrell who have exposed the collusion between the paper industry and the U.S. EPA on the efforts to downgrade the dioxin standard. There were also some of dioxin’s victims present, people like Jerry White, a herbicide sprayer from New Brunswick, Canada, as well as several folks from Jacksonville, Arkansas. Another key participant was Gerson Smoger, a lawyer, who took Syntex Agribusiness to court in 1991 and proved, in an historic case, that Alvin Overmann of Missouri died from dioxin. Another very important strand at the Conference were the folks from Greenpeace: Pat Costner, Joe Thornton, Ruth Stringer and Renate Kroesa. These dedicated researchers and activists have done more to protect our environment than many government agencies. Not only have they produced some first class scientific reports, they have also found time to help citizens fight dioxin producing facilities like incinerators. And, then, finally, there were many of you. The majority of the funding for the Conference came from activists, and most of them were subscribers to Waste Not. The citizens who had never thought of themselves as environmentalists, scientists or activists, but found these roles forced upon them, when an incinerator proposal came to town. At which point, you found yourself fighting night and day to protect your children, your community, your common sense, and finally, your sanity. You, too, found out about dioxin, and how government, industry and their paid hacks, had lied about this molecule. All these strands came together to see what we could do to return honesty to science and eliminate the scourge of dioxin and related compounds from our bodies and from the planet. We urge our readers to get the Transcript and the Videos (see Waste Not # 229) of this Conference because they document what was known about dioxin in 1991 by some of the most active and involved people working on this issue that we can trust.


Marilyn Leistner “was the last mayor of Times Beach and is currently the trustee of Times Beach...Marilyn Leistner, I want to say, was supposed to be in the earlier session. She’s not here. She’s been diagnosed with severe peripheral neuropathy. She was flying here last night on a plane to come and speak to you today. Fifteen to thirty minutes out, while she was in the air, she could not move her legs or her arms. The plane turned around and went back to St.Louis. She was taken off and put into the infirmary, and then released in a wheelchair...if you didn’t know this before, peripheral neuropathy is one of the illnesses that has been shown to be service-connected to the Agent Orange dioxin exposure of Vietnam Veterans. When Marilyn Leistner first called me, what she was most concerned about was the health of the children of Times Beach, a large number of whom have been diagnosed with learning disabilities. That’s something that hasn’t been studied a lot, because most of the studies of dioxin have concentrated on its effect on adult men. A high number of suicides have occurred among the teenagers of Times Beach. A large seizure effect has also been noted...Marilyn’s daughter has a severe seizure disorder, which was originally diagnosed as being psychosomatic before doctors knew about the dioxin being sprayed in Times Beach or they realized she had been exposed to dioxin most of her life.”(pgs 79-80). Gerson Smoger, Chair, Litigation Committee on Dioxin, Am. Trial Lawyers Assoc.


“...It begins in Vietnam when eleven million gallons of the stuff was sprayed from helicopters, backpacks, airplanes, and accidental dumpings...dioxin was a big component of Agent Orange...Congress ordered this study in 1979. They ordered the Veterans Administration to do this study...Three years later, the study had not begun...And then one day appears a man named Dr. Vernon Houk, before a congressional committee. He said, give me that money. I’ll do the study. I’ll do it better and quicker than the Veterans Administration could do it...[Houk is] one of the most influential health officials in the federal government. He’s an assistant surgeon general. He’s the Director of one of the Centers of Disease Control...as the study proceeded, we found that Dr. Houk decided to, number one, exclude the people who had the most terms of service in Vietnam, who would have received the most exposure; exclude the people in the areas where Agent Orange was sprayed the most. And he did a lot of other things like that to narrow it down to the people who, in my view and in the view of our committee, were the people who probably would have been least likely to be exposed. And then Dr. Houk said we can’t do this study because we can’t identify who was sprayed with eleven million gallons of herbicide. He said the study was impossible to do, and with the approval of the White House and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the study was canceled in 1987....we subpoenaed documents of the White House. They had an organization called the ‘Agent Orange Working Group,’ and the lawyers that worked with this group and with OMB, in writing, in memoranda that we have copies of, concluded that it would be dangerous to compensate Vietnam Veterans for Agent Orange because of the liability to the government, not only at the military end but also the civilian end, and also the liability to chemical companies...” (page 75). Marc Smolonsky, Investigator, House Committee on Human Resources and Inter Governmental Relations, Washington, D.C.

Admiral E.R. Zumwalt, Jr. Former Chief of Naval Operations in Vietnam, U.S. Navy (retired): “...I found that there was much to commend the non-use of studies done by chemical companies. Subsequently, that has been established in court that some of those studies are absolutely fraudulent with exposed personnel being put into the unexposed category and vice versa, and yet they have been used as so-called reference studies for years and years. I became familiar with the fact that the Centers for Disease Control, as a policy matter, had been instructed to fuzz up the results of their studies, to make it very difficult to conclude who was exposed and not exposed, although it is quite clear that we have the capacity to do that. I became aware of the fact that the Ranch Hand Study had been misinterpreted by its authors...” (pages 4-8)

George Claxton, National Chairman, Agent Orange Committee for Vietnam Veterans of America:

“...I doubt very seriously if the magnitude of fraud and corruption, or at least in relation to the government, has ever been this large in the history of this country...Stacked against the veterans was the U.S. Government, which was allied with the chemical and paper industry...Although everyone felt sorry for those unfortunate veterans, they were clearly not worth the money that big industry might lose...” (pages 92- 94).

The average levels of dioxin in the fatty tissues of the general human population are higher than the soil level at which the Dutch government forbids cattle to graze on contaminated soils.” (page 195)
Joe Thornton, Greenpeace Research Analyst, Seattle, Washington.

DOW CHEMICAL: “...the organization that I represent was founded in 1984 as a result of individuals who had sprayed for a utility in the 1950s and 1960s defoliating under power lines...The Sprayers of Dioxin Association (S.O.D.A.) organization has lost 88 out of 204 people that we originally identified as sprayers. According to an actuarial study...the mortality rate is over 200 percent (greater than normal)...At the present time, out of the 68 to 70 remaining sprayers in the legal action, we have four that will be terminal within the next one to two years from cancers. These are men that range from 53 to 66 years of age...I’ve had a lot of people say to me shortly before they’ve died...‘Whatever you do, get Dow.’” (pages 71-73).

Jerry White, Executive Director, Sprayers of Dioxin Association, New Brunswick, Canada.

“With regard to dioxin, I would suggest we choose litigation that is designed to lead to: 1. Zero use of chlorine in the pulp and paper industry; 2. Zero use of incinerators; 3. Phase out chlorine use in our society; and 4. Phase out use of all bioaccumulative, toxic, persistent chemicals...Dioxins and the use of chlorine destroy life and so they must be taken to court. We can do no less.” (pgs 180-183) Dr. Mary O’Brien, Staff Scientist, Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide, Eugene, Oregon

WASTE NOT # 228. A publication of Work on Waste USA, published 48 times a year. Annual rates are: Groups & Non-Profits $50; Students & Seniors $35; Individual $40; Consultants & For-Profits $125; Canadian $US50; Overseas $65. Editors: Ellen & Paul Connett, 82 Judson Street, Canton, NY 13617. Tel: 315-379-9200. Fax: 315-379-0448.

Env/energy/native affairs: Ann Wordsworth, strong, anti-incinertion, new adviser, principal advisor.