Forty-two years ago in 1967 I was 16 years old and I was living in Charleston, AR. When I was 14 my family had moved there from Siloam Springs because my dad had gotten the job as ranch manager for Triangle Cattle Company. Triangle was owned by the prominent Fort Smith corporate attorney, James A. Gilker.
Triangle's cattle ranch was located on Fort Chaffee land that included everything from Hwy 96 east. As I recall this area of Fort Chaffee land was secured for Triangle through a 5 year grazing rights lease. And the land from Hwy 96 West to the base was leased by a guy named Dean Bedford (also a five year lease).
Besides having the camp leased out for grazing rights, the AR Game and Wildlife Dept. leased the same property for hunting rights.
So, between hosting two cattle ranches that collectively ran probably 6 - 7 thousand head of cattle and a hundred or so horses, various hunting seasons opened up to the general public and intense National Reserve training, involving a few thousand individuals, being conducted through the summer months...well, "The Camp" (as we referred to it back then) was an extremely busy place with many civilian and military people coming and going all of the time!
Now, you might be wondering where I'm going with this and why I've even bothered to bring it up. Well, here's why. I came across an interesting piece of data on the internet.
In December 2006 a report titled "The History of the US Department of Defense Programs for the Testing, Evaluation, and Storage of Tactical Herbicides," Submitted by Alvin L. Young, Ph. D., for Under Secretary of Defense William Van Houten listed Agent Orange test sites at Fort Gordon, Augusta, Georgia, Fort Chaffee, Fort Smith, Arkansas and Apalachicola National Forest, Sopchoppy, Florida. PDF Report
Note, the follwing excerpt from the report are pages 49 & 50 as they relate to Fort Chaffee. All bold emphasis was added by me.
Location: Fort Gordon, Augusta, Georgia
Fort Chaffee, Fort Smith, Arkansas
Apalachicola National Forest, Sopchoppy, Florida
Date → July 1967 - October 1967
Activity Description: During the period December 1966 to October 1967, the newly named "Plant Science Laboratories" at Fort Detrick initiated a comprehensive short-term project to evaluate desiccants and herbicidal mixtures as rapid-acting defoliants. The objectives of this study were to evaluate rapid-acting desiccants as defoliants and to assess the defoliation response of woody vegetation to mixtures of herbicides and/or desiccants. The criteria for assessment was based principally on rapidity of action, but included other features such as safety and ease of handling, compatibility with dissemination systems, and low toxicity to man and wildlife. The approach to the objective of an improved rapid-acting defoliant involved three phases: (1) evaluation of commercially available rapid desiccants or contact herbicides; (2) evaluation of improved formulations of rapid desiccants developed under industry contacts and by in-house effort; (3) development and evaluation of desiccant-herbicide
mixtures containing the rapid defoliant characteristics with the sustained long-term effects of Orange and other Tactical Herbicides. The project required an immediate access to a diversity of woody vegetation. Accordingly, Fort Detrick arranged for test locations at Fort Gordon near Augusta, Georgia; Fort Chaffee near Fort Smith, Arkansas, and Apalachicola National Forest near Sopchoppy, Florida. The Georgia site was described as a warm temperate, humid, moderate rainfall climate with deep, well-drained sands in rolling topography. The vegetation type was an oakhickory-
pine forest. The Arkansas site was described as a temperate continental, moderate rainfall climate with fine sandy loam soils in rolling topography. The vegetation type was an oak-hickory forest. The Apalachicola National Forest site was described as a subtropical, humid, moderate precipitation climate with sandy soils in a
flat poorly drained topography. The vegetation type was described as a Southern mixed forest. All sites were selected because of their isolation from any local human
populations, e.g., in Florida, the site was a ridge located in a swamp forest. Assessment: The desiccants selected for evaluation included Herbicide Blue (a tactical herbicide), and the commercial desiccants diquat, paraquat, dinitrobutylphenol
50 (DNBP), pentachlorophenol (PCP), hexachloroacetone (HCA), and monosodium methanearsonate (MSMA), pentachloro-pentenoic acid (AP-20), endothall, and various mixed formulations of these desiccants. The systemic herbicides included the two tactical herbicides Orange and White; the potassium salt, triisopropanolamine salts, and the
isooctyl ester of picloram; and, a ethylhexyl ester of 2,4,5-T mixed with HCA. Mixtures of propanil, nitrophenol, linuron, and silvex were also evaluated. All chemicals were furnished by Fort Detrick. Aerial application at these three sites were made with a Bell G-2 helicopter equipped with two 40-gallon tanks and a 26-foot boom with 6-inch nozzle positions adaptable for
volume deliveries of 3, 6, or 10 gallons per acre in a 50-foot swath. Spray equipment, pilot, and support were furnished under contract with Allied Helicopter Service of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Aerial applications were made on duplicate 3-acre plots, 200 by 660 feet in dimension. A sampling and evaluation trail was established in each plot on a diagonal beginning at 100 feet from one corner. Major species were marked along 500 feet of this transect and individual plants were identified by combinations of colored plastic ribbons.
A minimum of 10 individuals of each species was marked unless fewer were present. Evaluations were made at 1-, 5-, 10-, 30-, and 60-day intervals by experienced Fort
Detrick personnel. At each evaluation period the identical marked individuals of the major species were rated for defoliation and desiccation. At each location, approximately 475 gallons (~10 drums) of Herbicide At each location, approximately 475 gallons (~10 drums) of Herbicide Blue, 95 gallons (~2 drums) of Herbicide Orange,
and 6 gallons of Herbicide White were expended.
The assistance of Department of Army forestry personnel at Fort Gordon, Fort Chaffee, and the 3rd and 4th Army Headquarters were acknowledged in the report for their support in the selection and preparation of sites in Georgia and Arkansas. The land and facilities
for the Florida tests were provided by the Supervisor, Apalachicola National Forest, Tallahassee, Florida. Personnel from the Physical Sciences Division, Fort Detrick assisted in the development of formulations and preparations of field test mixtures. They also provided the data on the physical characteristics of the candidate tactical defoliants and mixtures.
Sources: Darrow RA, Frank JR, Martin JW, Demaree, KD, Creager RA (1971): Field Evaluation of Desiccants and Herbicide Mixtures as Rapid Defoliants. Technical Report
114, Plant Sciences Laboratories, Fort Detrick, Frederick, Maryland. Document unclassified but subject to special export control. Available from the Defense Documentation Center, Accession Number AD 880685.
Okay. That was 42 years ago so there's probably no need for any concern today as all of those harmful chemical molecules have probably been washed away, blown away or, in some way or another, disbursed into harmless concentrations. BUT, having said that, it still might be good to know exactly where in Fort Chaffee were these tests conducted. And, it might even be prudent to have some tests run on these sites once located just to see if any harmful substance remains there or not.
According to the report, three of the herbicides (agent blue, agent orange, agent white) known as the "rainbow herbicides" were tested somewhere in Chaffee. So what is the signifigance of blue, orange and white?
Agent Blue is one of the "rainbow herbicides" that is known for its use by the United States during the Vietnam War. It was sprayed on rice paddies and other crops in an attempt to deprive the Vietnamese of valuable crops. Agent Blue is a mixture of two arsenic-containing compounds, sodium cacodylate and cacodylic acid. Although it has a similar-sounding name, Agent Blue is chemically unrelated to the more infamous Agent Orange and other herbicides used during the war.
Agent Orange is the code name for an herbicide and defoliant used by the U.S. military in its Herbicidal Warfare program during the Vietnam War, when an estimated 21,136,000 gal. (80 000 m³) of Agent Orange were sprayed across South Vietnam. 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, resulting in 400,000 deaths and disabilities, and 500,000 children born with birth defects.
From 1961 to 1971, Agent Orange was by far the most widely used of the so-called "Rainbow Herbicides" employed in the Herbicidal Warfare program. During the production of Agent Orange (as well as Agents Purple, Pink, and Green) dioxins were produced as a contaminant, which have caused health problems for those exposed during the Vietnam War. Agents Blue and White were part of the same program but did not contain dioxins.
Studies of populations exposed to dioxin, though not necessarily Agent Orange, indicate increased risk of various types of cancer and genetic defects; the effect of long-term low-level exposure has not been established.
Agent Orange was given its name from the colour of the 55 U.S. gallon (210 litre) orange-striped barrels it was shipped in. It is a roughly 1:1 mixture of two phenoxyl herbicides in iso-octyl ester form, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T).
Internal memos from the companies that manufactured it reveal that at the time Agent Orange was sold to the U.S. government for use in Vietnam it was known that it contained a dioxin, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD), a by-product of the manufacture 2,4,5-T. The National Toxicology Program has classified TCDD to be a human carcinogen, frequently associated with soft-tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). In a study by the Institute of Medicine, a link has been found between dioxin exposure and diabetes. Three studies have suggested an increase in the risk of acute myelogenous leukemia in the children of Vietnam veterans, which might be associated with exposure to Agent Orange. A variety of other conditions have been suggested to be linked to exposure, but studies have failed to confirm a link with these diseases. Just 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) of TCDD was released in the Seveso disaster causing widespread effects on people and livestock.
Agent White is the code name for a powerful herbicide and defoliant used by the U.S. military in its Herbicidal warfare program during the Vietnam War. The name comes from the white stripe painted on the barrels to identify the contents. It was one of the so-called "rainbow herbicides" that included the more infamous Agent Orange.
Agent White is a 4:1 mixture of 2,4-D and Picloram (also known as Tordon 101). Unlike the more infamous Agent Orange, Agent White did not contain dioxin, which was introduced into the other defoliants through the addition of 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T). However, it appears the Picloram was contaminated with hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and nitrosamines, both known carcinogens. Around 1985, Dow Chemical was forced to re-certify Picloram after having greatly reduced the amounts of both contaminates.
In 97' my dad died from cancer at the age of 70. In 01, another Triangle ranch hand, who was around 60, died of an illness, although, exactly what the illness was I do not know. In any case, now that I have this data, I cannot help but to be a little more than curious as to the scope (if any) of adverse effects, both long-term and short-term, that might in some way be connected to this herbicide testing out in Chaffee 42 years ago. By the way, when I say "in some way" one of the ways I'm thinking is via the food chain. Remember, there were thousands of head of livestock dinning daily on the abundant vegetation of Fort Chaffee and eventually the bulk of this livestock population ended up wrapped in cellophane in some grocery store's meat dept. somewhere.
I would very much appreciate hearing what you think about this. Perhaps there are those of you out there that have more light to shed on this.
In case you're interested, following are several more related excerpts with source links.
MORE ABOUT DIOXIN
Dioxins are absorbed primarily through dietary intake of fat, as this is where they accumulate in animals and humans. In humans, the highly chlorinated dioxins are stored in fatty tissues and are neither readily metabolized nor excreted. The estimated elimination half-life for highly chlorinated dioxins (4-8 chlorine atoms) in humans ranges from 7.8 to 132 years.
Health Effects in Humans:
Dioxins build up primarily in fatty tissues over time (bioaccumulate), so even small exposures may eventually reach dangerous levels. In 1994, the US EPA reported that dioxins are a probable carcinogen, but noted that non-cancer effects (reproduction and sexual development, immune system) may pose an even greater threat to human health. TCDD, the most toxic of the dibenzodioxins, is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). TCDD has a half-life of approximately 8 years in humans, although at high concentrations, the elimination rate is enhanced by metabolism. The health effects of dioxins are mediated by their action on a cellular receptor, the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR).
Exposure to high levels of dioxins in humans causes a severe form of persistent acne, known as chloracne. A case-control study has shown an elevated risk of sarcoma (a type of cancer) associated with low-level exposure (4.2 fg/m3) to dioxins from incineration plants. High levels of exposures to dioxins have been shown by epidemiological studies to lead to an increased risk of tumours at all sites. Other effects in humans may include:
Developmental abnormalities in the enamel of children's teeth.
Central and peripheral nervous system pathology
Damage to the immune systems.
Recent studies have shown that exposure to dioxins changes the ratio of male to female births among a population such that more females are born than males.
Note: I have only one child - a daughter. My brother has three children - all girls. (Monte)
Dioxins accumulate in food chains in a fashion similar to other chlorinated compounds (bioaccumulation). This means that even small concentrations in contaminated water can be concentrated up a food chain to dangerous levels due to the long biological half life and low water solubility of dioxins.
Dioxins are readily adsorbed on suspended matter because they are practically insoluble in water. The bio-availability is low, however the toxic effect on aquatic organisms is considerable.
Dioxins are found in the atmosphere adsorbed on dust particles (fly ash).
Mobility is extremely low because of the low water solubility and high adsorption capability. Dioxins thus accumulate in soil.
The half-life of dioxins in soil is more than 10 years (ROTARD, 1987). The half-life in the human body is up to 6 years (BECK et al., 1987).
Degradation, decomposition products:
There is only slight degradation of dioxin by mircoorganisms. Photodegradation may occur.
Accumulation of dioxins in the food chain is a consequence of their solubility in fats. Bioaccumulation is high in fish as well as in fat and in the liver of terrestrial organisms. However, accumulation in plants is moderate.
*What is a half-life of elimination?
A half-life describes the rate at which something diminishes. In the case of dioxin elimination from the human body, the half-life is the time it takes the human body to eliminate one-half of all of the dioxin it contains. Scientists used to think that the half-life of dioxin elimination was about 7 years. Now they are realizing the half-life changes, based on an individual's dioxin level. It probably ranges from as rapid as about 1 year to approximately 10 years.