CDC to probe health claims by ex-Maine soldiers
PORTLAND, Maine—The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will investigate whether Maine soldiers were exposed to dangerous chemicals, including Agent Orange, while training at a Canadian military base in New Brunswick.
The head of the federal agency, Dr. Thomas Frieden, made the promise in a letter to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.
More than 100 former Maine National Guard soldiers have sought disability benefits for health problems believed linked to their training at the Gagetown base south of Fredericton. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has rejected the claims because there's no evidence that Agent Orange, a Vietnam War-era chemical defoliant, was used during the time the Maine soldiers trained at the base.
Thousands of Maine soldiers trained at the Gagetown base between 1971 and 2006. Agent Orange was applied to parts of the base over several days in 1966 and 1967.
But Canadian officials have acknowledged using large quantities of other herbicides and defoliants -- some now linked to cancer and other diseases -- over several decades. Frieden said CDC staffers have requested documents and reports to look into the possibility that Maine veterans were exposed to harmful chemicals at the site, MaineToday Media ( http://bit.ly/P0Zf0q) reported.
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) share your concerns about the health of our military veterans and this situation in particular," Frieden wrote in his letter to Collins.
The Canadian government agreed in 2007 to make $20,000 payments to hundreds of Canadian veterans who served at Gagetown.
Information from: Portland Press Herald, http://www.pressherald.com