A heavily dioxin-contaminated area is marked by a yellow flag at the Da Nang Airport, a former US airbase, where a ground-breaking ceremony of the joint US-Vietnam Dioxin Cleaning Project was held on August 9. From deformed infants to grandparents with cancer, families near Vietnam's Da Nang Airbase have long blamed the toxic legacy of war for their ills. Photo: AFP
It has been reported in the press that the Vietnamese will be using a method of detoxification called the "˜Hubbard Method' originating within the cult called Scientology. The method employs vitamins, exercise, and sauna to "˜remove' dioxins from the human body.
I am confident that the Hubbard method being proposed for the removal of dioxins in Vietnamese citizens exposed to Agent Orange and Dioxin will have absolutely no effect in terms of "˜detoxification' of the dioxin molecule, or any form of "˜purification' that has been implied in recent news releases.
Dioxin has a strong affinity for lipids (fats) in the human body. The bond established between dioxin and fatty tissues in human organs, blood, and any fat located in the body is unusually strong. Only after many, many years of natural metabolic processes is dioxin slowly released. The half-life for dioxin in the human body is in the order of 11 15 years"¦ that is, during that period of time one half of the dioxin concentration will be naturally eliminated from the body.
My understanding is that this time period is an estimate only, and that physiological processes in various human bodies may differ in a manner that renders this half life somewhat variable; as a result, there may be considerable variations regarding half-life estimates for humans, perhaps extending for lengths of time well beyond the 11 15 year generalized period.
I am not aware of any credible scientific studies which actually prove the Hubbard method of detoxification has any validity at all. Without such scientific evidence, generated through rigorous scientifically controlled investigations, as far as I am concerned this method should be relegated to the categories of ridiculous, laughable, and above all fraudulent if such claims are being made without unequivocal scientific evidence to the contrary.
Karin Pouw, a spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology, said the Hubbard method "has had many applications" and had been used "for more than three decades to handle environmental toxins, exposure to pesticides and drug rehabilitation."
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Pouw can claim anything she wishes, but until she is able to present evidence accumulated through controlled scientific investigations that supports claims of detoxification for those toxins she itemizes, any comments of supposed fact verbalized by her should be considered bogus.
I would challenge Pouw, or anyone else for that matter, to present scientific data countering my assertions here. I am confident this will never happen "¦ the Hubbard method should be relegated to the junk heap, along with assertions of many unfortunates who continue to believe the world is flat.
Are the Vietnamese being scammed? Unfortunately, yes"¦ false hope indeed. I do not feel that any form of chastisement directed toward the Vietnamese is warranted.
I believe these men are honestly attempting to counter a serious medical situation wrought through the use of Agent Orange in their country from 1961 to 1971. Over 80 million liters of Agent Orange were released into the Vietnamese environment during this period. I feel there is a certain amount of desperation in Vietnam to try and help those who are suffering illnesses precipitated from the accumulation of dioxin in their bodies. The Vietnamese government is doing all it can to provide some financial assistance to victims, and now is searching for any method that could possibly prevent future medical issues in people now identified as contaminated with dioxin, and those who undoubtedly will be identified in the future.
As far as I am concerned, their actions are testament to their desire to help the less-fortunates in their country who, through no fault of their own, are now suffering the continuing legacy of Agent Orange.
Regarding the US and the entrance of the Hubbard method into Agent Orange/Dioxin discussions, I suspect there is little likelihood of the US supporting such a process.
The US should increase its recent commitments to assist Vietnam with its dioxin contamination problem wherever it may exist in the country. Removing contaminated sites and dioxin from the human food chain is paramount, as is providing humanitarian aid to those who have unknowingly contaminated their bodies, and who now are suffering the consequences of the Agent Orange disaster.
By Dr. Wayne Dwernychuk
The writer is an environmental scientist in Canada
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