FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — Military records are shedding new light on Agent Orange testing decades ago at Maryland military installations and raising new concerns about health hazards from the Vietnam War-era chemical defoliant.
Fort Detrick released fresh details Tuesday on outdoor experiments with Agent Orange and similar compounds at the Army installation in Frederick.
The Army says it also tested Agent Orange outdoors at the former Fort Ritchie near Cascade, a disclosure that is expected to further delay redevelopment of the property by its private owner, Corporate Office Properties Trust.
The concerns stem from a dioxin in Agent Orange that has been linked to adverse health effects among service members who were exposed to it when it was used reduce enemy cover in Vietnam in the 1960s and early 70s.
Fort Detrick is trying to counter claims by an activist group that its carelessness with chemicals caused a cancer cluster among neighboring residents. An investigation by state public health officials hasn’t found higher rates of cancer within a mile of Fort Detrick than in the rest of Frederick County.
Fort Detrick officials said their preliminary archive search confirmed that researchers used nearly 17 pounds of Agent Orangeand other chemical defoliants from 1944 to 1968. The tests were done mostly with hand-held sprayers on 6-feet-by-18-feet outdoor plots sheltered by portable windscreens, the report said.
The Army said the compounds were identical to commercially available defoliants that were widely used across the country for farms, lawn care, rights of way and other applications.
The attack on Fort Detrick is led by Randy White, a former televangelist who heads the Kristen Renee Foundation, named for a daughter who grew up near Fort Detrick and died of brain cancer in 2008. Her mother, White’s ex-wife Debra Cross, died of kidney cancer in November.
White said Tuesday that he doesn’t trust the military to make public all its Agent Orange research.
“I believe the Department of Defense is worse than the Mafia,” White told a news conference.
Meanwhile, Corporate Office Properties Trust said Friday that it was working with the Army to learn more about defoliation studies at Fort Ritchie. The Columbia-based company said it had received a Defense Department study published in 2006 regarding military research on defoliants and herbicides at various installations, including Fort Ritchie.
The company said the issue will likely cause further delays in resolving a 2005 lawsuit filed by neighboring residents over the environmental impact of its redevelopment plans.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)