US says to help clear dioxin from Da Nang airport by 2016

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The Joint Advisory Committee on Agent Orange set up by Vietnam and the US said at a conference in Hanoi last week that Da Nang Airport would be cleared of Agent Orange in four years.

Jennifer Orme Zalaveta, director of the US Environmental Protection Agency's National Exposure Research Laboratory and co-chair of the meeting, said the clean-up would start after the monsoon next year, news website VnExpress reported.

Da Nang airport, used by the US as an arsenal during the Vietnam War, is a dioxin hot spot in Vietnam. Media reports in late August said all 62 blood samples taken at random from residents living for at least five years near the airport tested positive for dioxin.

None of them had taken part in the war or lived in areas where US forces sprayed the toxic defoliant. The victims have been sent to Hanoi for treatment.

She said Vietnamese and US agencies have made progress in clearing dioxin from Da Nang and other hotspots like Bien Hoa and Phu Cat airports in the south.

One major achievement was to clear dioxin from the soil in the Phu Cat Military Airport. The place was removed from the list of hot spots on August 18 after more than 7,000 cubic meters of dioxin-contaminated soil were safely contained in a landfill by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The Da Nang cleanup will seek to decontaminate around 73,000 cubic meters of soil and sediments using thermal desorption technology. Workers will dig up contaminated soil which will then be heated to temperatures high enough to break down the dioxin.

Zavaleta said USAID would provide US$9 million in the next three years to pilot public health measures to prevent diseases and disabilities among the local population.

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The US would also provide vocational training to disabled people and dioxin victims in Vietnam, she said.

Vietnam has spent US$6.25 million on dioxin clearance and supported victims with $50 million every year.

The US Army sprayed 80 million liters of Agent Orange containing 366 kilograms of the highly toxic dioxin over 30,000 square miles of southern Vietnam between 1961 and 1971.

Experts have identified at least 28 dioxin contaminated spots.

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