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Here’s why more Veterans, caregivers may get commissary, exchange privileges by 2020

Commissary Privileges


Former prisoners of war, Purple Heart recipients, certain disabled Veterans and caregivers for Veterans are a step closer to being allowed to shop at commissaries and exchanges, and other retail facilities on military bases, such as military lodging.

Barriers and facilitators to implementation of VA home-based primary care on American Indian reservations: a qualitative multi-case study

PubMed Logo 001



Veterans Health Affairs (VA) home-based primary care (HBPC) is an evidence-based interdisciplinary approach to non-institutional long-term care that was developed in urban settings to provide longitudinal care for vulnerable older patients. Under the authority of a Memorandum of Understanding between VA and Indian Health Service (IHS) to improve access to healthcare, 14 VA medical centers (VAMC) independently initiated plans to expand HBPC programs to rural American Indian reservations and 12 VAMC successfully implemented programs. The purpose of this study is to describe barriers and facilitators to implementation in rural Native communities with the aim of informing planners and policy-makers for future program expansions.

VA Seeks Public Comment on Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers



Today the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it is seeking public comments on how it can further strengthen and improve caregiver support through the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC).

Veterans urged to learn more about hazardous environments and burn pit exposure

Burn Pits 009


During Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn, burn pits were a common way to dispose of trash and human waste. Though this may have been the norm since waste management facilities weren’t available, it has been identified as another hazard service that contractors and service members may have been exposed to during deployment.

Most service members who had direct contact with burn pits may have found that the immediate side effects were short-term, dissipating rapidly once no longer exposed. These include:

  • Eye irritation and burning
  • Cough and throat irritation
  • Difficulties breathing
  • Skin irritation and rashes

Unfortunately, the long-term consequences may be less noticeable at first and much more severe. Current research continues as scientists try and decipher what long-term health effects may occur due to Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pits. In an effort to gain information on this growing concern, VA has an open registry for Veterans and service members to sign up. Veterans are encouraged to document their exposures and report health concerns through an online questionnaire ; thus far, over 170,000 Veterans and service members have completed the 40-minute survey between 2014 and April 2019. This is not a health screening – it is for documentation purposes only, as VA is trying to conduct research on long-term effects. However, you can schedule a free health exam with a VA provider once completed.

If you are a Veteran who was exposed to toxic chemicals or hazardous materials such as burn pit smoke, depleted uranium, sulfur fire, chemical warfare agents, chromium, or suffered injuries due to extreme heat, toxic embedded fragments, explosions, noise, or became ill due to infectious diseases (such as malaria, brucellosis, West Nile Virus, rabies, etc.), you are highly encouraged to contact your VA primary care provider OR your local VA environmental health coordinator to receive appropriate health assessments and determine if you qualify for disability benefits. You may consider joining the Gulf War Registry and the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry.

An organization in the fight is Burnpits 360. One of MCVC’s own members, Stacey Pennington, lost her brother, SSG Steven Ochs, to the effects of burn pits. Stacey and Rosie have worked determinedly side-by-side, testifying before Congress, to not only get this issue recognized, but to advocate for research and treatment.


Some Vietnam Veterans are just now experiencing the effect of Agent Orange

dioxin kills


Orange should stand for something nice — sunsets, tangerines, Creamsicles. But when it's Agent Orange, the color means poison.

Agent Orange is the herbicide sprayed by the millions of gallons all over South Vietnam during the war from 1961-71. The operation was designed to remove the triple-canopy jungle and other vegetation the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops used for cover. The operation's motto: "Only you can prevent a forest."

The poison got its name from the stripes on the 55-gallon drums in which it was shipped, mostly from several major chemical companies, including Dow Chemical and Monsanto.

The Air Force dumped Agent Orange on South Vietnam for 10 years. That campaign exposed an estimated 2.8 million American troops to the deadly dioxin. Most were not affected while serving in-country. But after they came home — often decades later — tens of thousands of Veterans paid a price with their health.

House Bill 326, "Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2019," is now pending in Congress. It reads in part:

"Agent Orange exposure continues to negatively affect the lives of Veterans of the United States Armed Forces, Vietnamese people, Vietnamese Americans and their children. The lives of many victims are cut short and others live with disease, disabilities and pain, often untreated or unrecognized."

The Department of Veterans Affairs has recognized at least 14 cancers and other diseases related to Agent Orange. The VA says Veterans and their survivors may be eligible for benefits from these diseases. Court cases and congressional action since 1979 have ruled in favor of Veterans afflicted by the herbicides showered over the war zone. In 1991 President George H.W. Bush signed the Agent Orange Act, which ordered treatment for cancers resulting from wartime service.

Further, Vietnam Veterans of America says "significant numbers of Vietnam Veterans have children and grandchildren with birth defects related to exposure to Agent Orange."

For decades, the VA has been criticized for some of its actions and reactions for disability claims related to Agent Orange. But one survivor of Agent Orange says he's satisfied with the care he's gotten from the agency. Greg, 69, asked that his last name not be used because he's sensitive about prostate cancer and its effects. He and his wife live in Shawnee, Kan., and winter in Weslaco in the Rio Grande Valley.

Greg served in Vietnam 1968-69 as a Seabee with the U.S. Navy. His outfit did repairs around airfields, which became refueling stations for airplanes that were spraying Agent Orange. "We took our breaks sitting on these orange cans," he says. "We read 'defoliant' and nobody thought anything about it ... We put our food on the barrels."

He got out of the Navy after seven years, then joined the Army, attaining the rank of major. He spent 17 years in that branch, serving as a quartermaster during the Persian Gulf War and elsewhere.

In 2014, at age 65, during a routine physical, he was diagnosed at a VA hospital with prostate cancer. Nobody in his family had ever had it. His tests were off the charts. He underwent the surgery at a Kansas VA hospital.

"I never had a bad experience (with the VA)," he says. "It's no different from the military. I'd say 99 percent of them do a good job."

Today, Greg gets a 100 percent disability from his claim — about $20,000 a year. "They shot at me on five continents," he says, "and missed. Prostate cancer didn't miss."

Mike Tharp writes an occasional column about Veterans issues for The Dallas Morning News. Tharp, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, is a U.S. Army Vietnam Veteran who received the Bronze Star.


Lawmakers Call for Action on Burn Pit Exposure

Burn Pit Exposure 002


Advocates for troops exposed to open air burn pits are recruiting allies on Capitol Hill to persuade the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand health care and compensation for sickened Veterans.

Taking their fight to Congress on Tuesday, the group Burn Pits 360, joined by civilian physicians and researchers who treat and study affected Veterans, met with lawmakers and staff to press the VA into action.

Service members in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere were exposed to chemicals and fumes from large open air burn pits used to dispose of garbage, plastics and other hazardous materials. Some have respiratory diseases, rare cancers and neurological disorders their doctors attribute to environmental exposures.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, a member of the Army National Guard who served in Iraq in 2005, has sponsored a bill, H.R. 663, that would require the Defense Department to ensure that service members are enrolled in a VA registry for troops exposed to burn pits.

"Daily reality was this dark cloud of smoke and toxins that came from the burn pits in our camps. ... The stench was ever-present. We've seen the devastating toll it's taken with many of our friends," Gabbard said.

More than 175,000 service members have signed on to the VA's Airborne Hazards and Open Air Burn Pit Registry. Millions more may have been exposed but are not in the registry, Gabbard said, a shortcoming that affects the understanding of the pits' impact.

"Every day that passes without urgent action being taken by our government, more service members suffer," she said.

A measure similar to Gabbard's has been introduced in the Senate by Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota.

Other bills now under consideration would allow family members of deceased or incapacitated Veterans to add their service member's name and experiences to the registry or, at the very least, update the registry when a Veteran dies.

The Family Member Access to Burn Pit Registry Act, H.R. 1001, sponsored by Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, and the Burn Pit Registry Enhancement Acts, H.R. 1381 and S. 554, would let a designated person enroll a Veteran or update the registry.

Castro also has introduced a bill that would change the VA's disability ratings process for obliterative bronchiolitis, a lung condition often mistaken for asthma that some troops exposed to burn pits have developed.

The bill, H.R. 1005, would create a diagnostic code and a disability rating for the condition.

"We can't afford to cast a blind eye to the level of exposure and, with it, the impact," Castro said. "Our service men and women's exposure to this toxicity is undeniable, and the level cannot be questioned."

More than 250 burn pits were used at U.S. military bases in Iraq, Afghanistan and Djibouti to burn solid waste, including garbage, rubber, plastics, petroleum and medical waste.

Dozens of service members filed a lawsuit against the contracting firm KBR, which operated many of the burn pits, but the Supreme Court in January rejected an appeal to a lower court's ruling that the issue is one Congress and the president need to solve.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, was instrumental in 2013 in creating the VA burn pit registry. He expressed concern that the department plans to reduce its research budget by $17 billion and feels the government should be "fast-tracking" studies on burn pit-related illnesses.

"Veterans sickened by burn pits deserve eligibility for lifesaving health care," Udall said. "We must make sure these patriots receive care for the illnesses and injuries they received in service to our nation. It's basically as simple as that."

Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-California, sponsored the Burn Pit Registry Enhancement Act, which passed the House and now awaits a Senate vote. He said he will introduce a bill that would make Veterans with burn pit-related pulmonary illnesses automatically eligible for compensation and expanded health care.

"We don't have time for the perfect 20- to 30-year longitudinal cohort study ... to recognize that burn pits are a risk factor and toxic to Veterans' health," said Ruiz, an emergency room physician. "We need to act now. We needed to act yesterday."

The Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry is available to personnel who served in Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn; those stationed in Djibouti on or after Sept. 11, 2001; and Veterans of Desert Shield and Desert Storm or anyone who served in the southwest Asia operational theatre on or after Aug. 2, 1990.

According to Burn Pits 360, 130 of its members have died from diseases related to environmental exposures. Nearly 100 members have been diagnosed with brain cancer, including glioblastoma, a relatively rare disease in persons younger than 45. An additional 139 have skin cancer, and 116 have lymphoma.

Burn Pits 360 Executive Director Rosie Torres said the VA, which has contracted with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to conduct a systemic review of available scientific literature on the topic, is engaging in "delay tactics."

"Our fate now rests in Congress," she said in a news release.


Infectious Diseases Affecting Gulf War Veterans

Infectious Diseases


It’s All in the Water: Infectious Diseases

We take water for granted. With most Americans growing up with clean water, we often don’t think twice about tap water or water for showers or even taking a drink from a mountain river after a long hike. But for our troops overseas, it’s a different story. Water and food safety are no joke. Immense precautions are taken to ensure that our service members overseas consume branded, bottled water—even to shower with!—and vacuum-sealed food. Back home, we think: obviously you have to be careful about drinking water, but how much harm can a shower do?

Turns out, more than you’d think.

Numerous studies have been undertaken to find out why our troops, specifically Gulf War Veterans, have come home unwell, sick, and suffering from a new worry that maybe the vomiting and diarrhea they experienced overseas might not actually go away. Imagine that. Imagine hearing the doctors tell you that they can’t figure out why you aren’t getting better, and why the medication isn’t working. This is what our service members are dealing with now. And here’s why.

Disease rates in Southwest Asia

Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq have some of the highest rates of disease in the world. This is largely due to unsanitary living conditions, limited access to healthcare, and the prevalence of infectious organisms (parasites) that run rampant in the water. Recent studies have identified numerous parasites that live in the marine life of freshwater rivers, such as the Tigris. Swimming poses the highest risk of infection, but this would extend to using this water to wash. Researchers are attempting to aid fish farmers in those areas prevent infestation of parasites in farmed fish. But it doesn’t stop there. Poor sanitation habits affect the underground wells and mountain rivers, via contaminating the water by septic tanks without solid bottoms, which are frequently very close to drinking water sources. Even bottled water is not always safe. It is a well-known practice of locals filling plastic bottles with water from contaminated wells and selling this water at the markets. And then there are the locals themselves, especially in the rural populations. Again, poor sanitation habits lend to infectious diseases spreading easily with a handshake or other physical contact. While our service members are heavily vaccinated, there are still pathogenic organisms against which foreigners, such as our Gulf War Veterans, have no immunity.

Presumptive diseases for Gulf War Veterans in Southwest Asia

The VA has recognized the enormity of health risks involved with service in Southwest Asia and has identified a list of infectious diseases that are presumed to be service-connected for Gulf War Veterans who served in those countries. They are as follows:

  • Brucellosis: A zoonotic bacterial disease that spreads from animals to humans via unpasteurized milk, cheese, and other dairy products. Symptoms include profuse sweating and joint and muscle pain. The illness may be chronic and persist for years.
  • Campylobacter jejuni: Food poisoning due to consumption of raw/undercooked poultry, unpasteurized milk, and contaminated water. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fever.
  • Coxiella burnetti (Q fever): A bacterial disease with symptoms such as fever, severe headache, and gastrointestinal problems such as nausea and diarrhea. This disease naturally infects some animals, including goats, sheep, and cattle.
  • Malaria: An infectious disease caused by a parasite transmitted by mosquitoes. Symptoms include chills, fever, and sweats.
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis: A disease that primarily affects the lungs, although it can attack other parts of the body. It spreads much like a cold or the flu — through the expelled airborne droplets from a person with infectious TB.
  • Nontyphoid salmonella: leading cause of bacterial diarrhea worldwide. Foods that are most likely to contain Salmonella include raw or undercooked eggs, raw milk, contaminated water, and raw or undercooked meats, but they can also contaminate fruits and vegetables. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Shigella: An infectious disease closely related to E. coli, causing diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps starting a day or two after exposure to the bacteria; usually resolves in 5 to 7 days. Contracted via contaminated food and water.
  • Visceral leishmaniasis: Also known as black fever and Dumdum fever, spread by sandfly bites. It is characterized by symptoms such as fever, weight loss, enlargement of the spleen and liver, and anemia. The condition may be fatal if left untreated.
  • West Nile virus: Spread by mosquitoes, and characterized by symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle pain or weakness, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms may range from mild to severe.

In order to qualify for the presumption, Veterans must demonstrate that the above conditions were at least 10% disabling within 1 year from the date of military separation.

What if my condition is not on that list?

It is important to note that these conditions do not limit service connection for other conditions. These are just the conditions that the VA presumes service connection for Gulf War Veterans (meaning that the VA will not require a medical nexus between the condition and military service in order to award disability compensation). Veterans can pursue service connection for other conditions on a direct basis. This means that if you have a condition that you believe was caused by your military service, you can still obtain service connection for that condition, but you will need a medical nexus from a qualified medical professional. Veterans can also obtain service connection for undiagnosed illnesses and medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illness under the Gulf War presumption.

So what can you do?

  1. Be aware. Even if you don’t have one of the presumptive illnesses mentioned above, that doesn’t mean you did not contract an illness while you were overseas. That nausea and diarrhea that won’t go away? Don’t wait – get it checked out. And if you think it may be related to your service, file a claim.
  2. Get help. If you have a claim for service connection for a condition that is related to your service in the Gulf War, good advocacy is key. If your condition is not on their neat and tidy list, the VA will try to deny you. Advocates will be able to direct you to the right evidence and legal argument that you need to win your case.


Georgia Veterans’ families raising alarms about open-air burn pits

Air Burn Pits


Congress considering several measures focusing on airborne hazards

Tammy McCracken said her husband was fit and lean before he deployed to Iraq, a weightlifter and a runner with no history of serious illnesses.

But David returned home from Baghdad in 2009 with a persistent dry cough. Headaches came next. Then confusion, disorientation and memory loss. On the day he learned of his promotion to colonel in 2011, his doctors in Atlanta performed a biopsy and found a brain tumor. It would kill him in less than a year. He died at 46, leaving behind three children.

Tammy is certain of what caused his cancer — the vast open-air burn pits the U.S. military used to eliminate all kinds of waste in Iraq. Everything went in them: unexploded ordnance, metal cans, plastics, Styrofoam, rubber, paint, lubricants, even body parts and animal carcasses. Ignited with jet fuel, the pits belched heavy smoke into the same air the soldiers breathed around their bases.

More than 170,000 troops and Veterans who spent time in Iraq and elsewhere have added their names to a national government registry that tracks exposure to burn pits, oil well fires and other airborne hazards. As of Dec. 31, 7,255 Georgians were on the list. A nonprofit advocacy group that tracks the issue, Burn Pits 360, says it has tracked 130 deaths tied to burn pit exposure.

The Veterans Affairs Department has rejected most disability compensation claims to date. It points to a 2011 Institute of Medicine report that says insufficient data makes it impossible to conclude whether burn pit emissions could cause long-term health problems. But the VA says it continues to study the issue.

Several bills focusing on the issue are pending in Congress. Among them are measures that also would allow families of deceased Veterans to participate in the government’s airborne hazards registry and require the VA to create evaluation criteria for disability benefits for an illness often linked to burn pits, obliterative bronchiolitis. Meanwhile, Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, is planning to hold a hearing on exposures to burn pits and other toxic hazards next month.

Former Vice President Joseph Biden brought more attention to the issue last year, when he speculated whether his 46-year-old son’s death from brain cancer was linked to burn pits. In 2009, Beau Biden deployed to Camp Victory in Iraq — the same base where David McCracken was stationed — before dying in 2015 from the same brain cancer that killed McCracken, glioblastoma multiforme.

Tammy McCracken’s experience inspired her to volunteer with Burn Pits 360 and to enroll in a graduate analytics program at Georgia Tech. She hopes to use what she has learned and publish the locations of the military’s burn pits. She also wants to help other families get the same VA indemnity compensation and education benefits her family received after nearly four years of appealing to the agency to link her husband’s death to his military service.

“Why do we have to wait for symptoms to arise?” she said. “Why do we have to wait for a doctor to tell a family your husband has stage 4 cancer. It doesn’t have to happen this way.”

The 10-acre burn pit

To incinerate the many tons of waste created each day on bases in Afghanistan, Iraq and on the Horn of Africa, the U.S. military set up scores of open-air burn pits.

Approved by the Pentagon, they were supposed to be temporary until trash incinerators could be installed, but some remained in operation up until as recently as 2015, according to Joseph Hickman’s exposé, “The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers.” Many soldiers were “housed as close as a few hundred yards away from the burn pits, and in some cases recreational halls and other base facilities were built nearly adjacent to the toxic pyres,” wrote Hickman, a former Marine and Army sergeant.

The pit that drew the most attention burned north of Baghdad at Joint Base Balad, home at one point to about 25,000 troops and civilians. The pit stretched across 10 acres, incinerated several hundred tons of waste each day and sent smoke over the base’s living areas, VA records show. Military air tests there revealed dioxin, a compound linked to some cancers. Agent Orange, the herbicide the U.S. military sprayed during the Vietnam War, also contained a form of dioxin.

The Defense Department said it is “concerned that toxins from burn pit emissions may pose health risks” and that the pits are generally meant to be short-term.

“For the longer term,” Defense Department spokeswoman Heather Babb said, “we use incinerators, engineered landfills or other accepted solid waste management practices. When used, open-air burn pits must be operated in a manner that prevents or minimizes risks to human health and safety of DOD personnel.”

Michael Keister mapped the locations of more than a dozen burn pits in Iraq while working with Tammy McCracken for a Georgia-based military contractor about nine years ago. He remembers wearing a bandana over his mouth and nose and goggles to protect himself from the acrid smoke.

“No one would ever get away with this in any county in the United States,” said Keister, a Vietnam War Veteran who has suffered from diabetes connected to Agent Orange exposure. “It appeared they didn’t give a hoot about anybody over there, including our own soldiers and Marines.”

Kris Marbutt of McDonough said her 34-year-old husband, Sgt. John Marbutt, died from brain cancer — glioblastoma multiforme — in 2016 after being exposed to burn pits during his deployment to Mosul, Iraq, in 2009 and 2010. She remembers him telling her how thick the air was in Iraq and how he later suffered from two brain tumors, headaches, dizziness and numbness.

“He served our country with dignity,” she said. “And he did not deserve to suffer and die like he did.”

Dozens of Veterans, civilian contractors and their families sued the military contractors who were responsible for managing the burn pits, including KBR, alleging they were harmed by the smoke coming from them. But in December, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected their appeal, leaving in place a lower court decision that blocked the lawsuits from moving forward.

The VA says it is pursuing a new review focusing on respiratory health.

“We continually look at the research and follow trends since some diseases, such as a cancer, have a long latency period,” VA spokesman Terrence Hayes said in an email. “At this time, science does not support making burn pit exposure a presumptive condition for any illness.”

Still, the agency has approved some disability compensation claims that had at least one condition related to burn pit exposure. From June of 2007 through March of this year, the VA processed 12,378 of them. Of those, 2,425 — or a fifth — had at least one burn pit condition granted, according to the VA.

His final words

David McCracken grew up in New Castle, Penn., the son of a Korean War Veteran and a homemaker. An industrial hygienist, he was sharp, he thrived in school and he loved the military, according to his widow, Tammy. She got one of his favorite expressions, Embrace every moment, tattooed on her right wrist after he died.

In her tidy home in Tyrone, she is surrounded by things that remind her of him: The silver sword she presented him the day he was promoted to colonel, his plentiful challenge coin collection, his mint green camouflage Army caps, and the American flag that draped his casket.

The day he died, she said, he shared some vanilla ice cream — his favorite flavor — with her and their three children in the hospice wing of the Atlanta hospital that cared for him. He asked Tammy if he did a good job as a husband and father. Absolutely, she told him, you did a fantastic job. Those were the final words they shared.


The Poison Papers Expose Decades of Collusion between Industry and Regulators over Hazardous Pesticides & Chemicals

Poison Papers


Watchdog Groups Digitize and Release 20,000 Documents for Public Review

The Bioscience Resource Project and the Center for Media and Democracy today are releasing a trove of rediscovered and newly digitized chemical industry and regulatory agency documents stretching back to the 1920s. The documents are available at

Together, the papers show that both industry and regulators understood the extraordinary toxicity of many chemical products and worked together to conceal this information from the public and the press. These papers will transform our understanding of the hazards posed by certain chemicals on the market and the fraudulence of some of the regulatory processes relied upon to protect human health and the environment.

"These documents represent a tremendous trove of previously hidden or lost evidence on chemical regulatory activity and chemical safety. What is most striking about these documents is their heavy focus on the activities of regulators. Time and time again regulators went to the extreme lengths of setting up secret committees, deceiving the media and the public, and covering up evidence of human exposure and human harm. These secret activities extended and increased human exposure to chemicals they knew to be toxic," said Dr. Jonathan Latham, Executive Director of the Bioscience Resource Project.

The Poison Papers are a compilation of over 20,000 documents obtained from federal agencies and chemical manufacturers via open records requests and public interest litigation. They include scientific studies and summaries of studies, internal memos and reports, meeting minutes, strategic discussions, and sworn testimonies.

The majority of these documents have been scanned and digitized for the first time and represent nearly three tons of material. The regulatory agency sources of these documents include: the EPA, the USDA Forest Service, the FDA, the Veterans Administration, and the Department of Defense. Chemical manufacturers referenced in the documents include: Dow, Monsanto, DuPont, and Union Carbide, as well as many smaller manufacturers and the commercial testing companies who worked for them.

The Poison Papers catalogue the secret concerns of industry and regulators over the hazards of pesticides and other chemicals and their efforts to conceal those concerns.

Most of the Poison Papers were collected by author and activist Carol Van Strum.

Corporate concealment is not a new story. What is novel in the Poison Papers is the abundant evidence that EPA and other regulators were often knowing participants or even primary instigators of these cover-ups. These regulators failed to inform the public of the hazards of dioxins and other chemicals; of evidence of fraudulent independent testing; and of widespread human exposure. The papers thus reveal, in the often-incriminating words of the participants themselves, an elaborate universe of deception and deceit surrounding many pesticides and synthetic chemicals.

The chemicals most often discussed in the documents include dioxins, herbicides and pesticides (such as 2,4-D, Dicamba, Permethrin, Atrazine, and Agent Orange) and PCBs. Some of these chemicals are among the most toxic and persistent ever manufactured. Except for PCBs, almost every chemical discussed in the Poison Papers is still manufactured and sold today, either as products or as product contaminants.

“The Poison Papers will be a tremendous resource for researchers, the media, and everyday Americans worried about many of the chemicals used on farm fields and in common consumer products,” said Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy.

EXPLORE: Some of the 20,000+ documents in this repository have surfaced over the years. Many have never been seen online or publicly written about. The Poison Papers, therefore, offer a unique opportunity for researchers, the public and the media to discover much more about what was known about chemical toxicity, when, and by whom.

ACCESS: You can access the papers at Important instructions on how best to search these old documents are also available here and on the website.

Poison Papers Reveal:

Secrecy — They disclose EPA meeting minutes of a secret high-level dioxins working group that admitted dioxins are extraordinarily poisonous chemicals. Internal minutes contradict the agency's longstanding refusal to regulate dioxins or set legal limits.

Collusion — They demonstrate EPA collusion with the pulp and paper industry to “suppress, modify, or delay” the results of the congressionally-mandated National Dioxin Study, which found high levels of dioxins in everyday products, such as baby diapers and coffee filters, as well as pulp and paper mill effluents.

Deception — They provide important new data on the infamous Industrial Bio-Test (IBT) scandal. By the late 1970s, it was known that more than 800 safety studies performed by IBT on 140 chemicals produced by 38 chemical manufacturers were nonexistent, fraudulent, or invalid. The Poison Papers, however, show that EPA and its Canadian counterpart, the Health Protection Branch (HPB), colluded with pesticide manufacturers, to keep invalidly registered products on the market and covered up massive problems with many IBT tests.

Cover-up — The papers also show that EPA staff had evidence that this IBT scandal involved more independent testing companies and more products than ever officially acknowledged.

Concealment —Show that EPA concealed and falsely its own studies finding high levels of dioxin - 2,3,7,8-TCDD - in environmental samples and human breast milk following routine use of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T (Agent Orange) by the federal Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

Intent — Show that Monsanto chief medical officer George Roush admitted under oath to knowing that Monsanto studies into the health effects of dioxins on workers were written up untruthfully for the scientific literature such as to obscure health effects. These fraudulent studies were heavily relied upon by EPA to avoid regulating dioxins. They also were relied upon to defend manufacturers in lawsuits brought by Veterans claiming damages from exposure to Agent Orange.

Links to the above documents and more can be found on the website here.

The mission of The Bioscience Resource Project is to provide the highest quality scientific information and analysis to enable a healthy food system and a healthy world. The Bioscience Resource Project is an educational nonprofit based in Ithaca New York, USA. It is the publisher of Independent Science News.


The GMO Scrapbook: GLYPHOSATE: It’s Much Worse Than We Thought

Glyphosate 003


I had fully intended this blog to come out yesterday, to follow Monday's first blog, but the fire at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris happened, as as I said, I didn't really think blogging yesterday, as if nothing had happened, wouldn't be fitting. Many people have sent in further articles and thoughts about it, asking me what I think. I may or may not eventually collect my thoughts into some sort of coherent pile and blog about them, or perhaps talk about them in a webinar, but for the moment I will keep those to myself.

Today's article was sent in by several people, and it's one of those things we've got to talk about. since it's an article by one of my favorite researchers, F. William Engdahl:

What caught my eye here were two things:

In a long-term animal study by French scientists under Gilles Eric Seralini, Michael Antoniou and associates, it was demonstrated that even ultra-low levels of glyphosate herbicides cause non-alcoholic liver disease. The levels the rats were exposed to, per kg of body weight, were far lower than what is allowed in our food supply. According to the Mayo Clinic, today, after four decades or more pervasive use of glyphosate pesticides, 100 million, or 1 out of 3 Americans now have liver disease. These diagnoses are in some as young as 8 years old.

But glyphosate is not only having alarming effects on human health. Soil scientists are beginning to realize the residues of glyphosate application are also having a possibly dramatic effect on soil health and nutrition, effects that can take years to restore.


While most attention is understandably drawn to the human effects of exposure to glyphosate, the most widely used agriculture chemical in the world today, independent scientists are beginning to look at another alarming effect of the agrochemical– its effect on essential soil nutrients. In a study of the health of soils in the EU, the online journal found that the effects of spraying of glyphosate on the major crops in European agriculture is having disastrous consequences on soil health in addition to killing weeds.

Scientists at Austria’s University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna showed that casting activity of earthworms had nearly disappeared from the surface of farmland within three weeks of glyphosate application. Casting is the process of the worm pushing fertile soils to the surface as they burrow, essential for healthy soil and plant nutrition. A study at Holland’s Wageningen University of topsoil samples from more than 300 soil sites across the EU found that 83% of the soils contained 1 or more pesticide residues. Not surprisingly, “Glyphosate and its metabolite AMPA, DDTs (DDT and its metabolites) and broad-spectrum fungicides… were the compounds most frequently found in soil samples and at the highest concentrations.”


Evidence of soil experts is beginning to reveal clear links between use of pesticides such as glyphosate and dramatic drops in soil fertility and the collapse of microbe systems essential to healthy soil. Worms are one of the most essential.

It’s well-established that earthworms play a vital role in healthy soil nutrients. Soils lacking such are soils that deprive us of the essentials we need for healthy diets, a pandemic problem of soil depletion emerging globally over the past four decades, notably the same time frame that use of pesticides has exploded worldwide. Earthworms are beneficial as they enhance soil nutrient cycling and enhance other beneficial soil micro-organisms, and the concentration of large quantities of nutrients easily assimilable by plants.

The EU puts no limits on how much glyphosate can be put on crops even though it is established that glyphosate can kill specific fungi and bacteria that plants need to suck up nutrients in addition to its effects on earthworms. That is a major blind spot.

So there you have it: glyphosate not only is now linked to non-alcoholic liver disease, which according to Mayo research is now afflicting one out of three Americans, inclusive of children, it is also destroying soil nutrients, microbes, and earthworms. We should have seen this one coming, of course, because a few years ago I blogged about a University of Iowa study of the yield-per-acre of GMO versus non-GMO crops. You might recall that the Iowa study concluded that yields of GMO fields went down over time, while costs rose, whereas the non-GMO fields maintained yields  and lower costs over time.

I suspected then, and these recent studies now appear to confirm, that the soil itself was being adversely affected by the whole GMO boondoggle. What was utterly lacking ab initio with the whole GMO-glyphosate technology was, of course, proper long-term inter-generational studies of the environmental and health effects, a study that it will be recalled only the Russian Federation pointed out was lacking, and which it not only intended to conduct, but it will also be recalled that the Russian Federation has prohibited GMOs, while the neighboring Ukraine went full GMO; indeed, forgotten in the whole mess in The Ukraine was the acquisition of special port facilities for GMO companies.

Normally, of course, my habit is to indulge in a bit of high octane speculation at this juncture, but today, I'll defer to Mr. Engdahl's own implied speculations, because I happen to agree with him. He states:

What is becoming clearer is the colossal and obviously deliberate official blind eye given to potential dangers of glyphosate-based pesticides by regulatory bodies not only in the EU and the USA, but also in China, which today produces more glyphosate than even Monsanto. Since the Monsanto Roundup patent expired, Chinese companies, including Syngenta, Zhejiang Xinan Chemical Industrial Group Company, SinoHarvest, and Anhui Huaxing Chemical Industry Company, have emerged as the world’s major producers of the chemical as well as largest consumers, a not good omen for the future of the legendary Chinese cuisine.

Glyphosate is the base chemical component for some 750 different brands of pesticides worldwide, in addition to Monsanto-Bayer’s Roundup. Glyphosate residues have been found in tap water, orange juice, children’s urine, breast milk, chips, snacks, beer, wine, cereals, eggs, oatmeal, wheat products, and most conventional foods tested. It’s everywhere, in brief.

Despite the overwhelming evidence, however, EU Commission bureaucrats and the USA EPA continue to ignore prudence in not banning the toxic chemical pending thorough independent investigation over longer time. If I were cynical, I would almost think this continued official support for glyphosate-based herbicides is about more than mere bureaucratic stupidity or ignorance, even more than simply corruption, though that for sure plays a role. The nutritional quality of our food chain is being systematically destroyed and it is about more than corporate agribusiness profit. (Emphasis added)

The question, if the nutritional value not only of the food but of the soil itself is being deliberately destroyed (and for reasons other than "corporate agribusiness profit") is why? And I suspect most regular readers here share the same suspicions that I have: we're being made to pay for our own poisoning by governments no longer interested in the welfare of their own people, who view them simply as "marks" to be fleeced and cattle to be slaughtered. The one bright ray of sunshine in the whole mess is that Bayer, or as I like to call it, I.G. Farbensanto, is being made to pay for the damage its products are inflicting, and that damage is no longer confined to humans, but the soil itself. And in that, there are even more potentials for class action lawsuits, not only from farmers, but from governments themselves, should any of them ever choose to wake up.

See you on the flip side...


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