Matzie: House unanimously adopts resolution designating October 2020 as ‘Agent Orange Awareness Month’

HARRISBURG, Sept. 30 – The House today unanimously adopted state Rep. Rob Matzie’s resolution designating October 2020 as “Agent Orange Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania.

Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny, said he introduced
H.R. 1019 to keep the spotlight on a critical health issue affecting thousands of Pennsylvanian veterans.

“In addition to brutal combat conditions, U.S. troops in Vietnam faced an equally deadly but invisible hazard that would wreak havoc on veterans and their families for decades – exposure to Agent Orange,” Matzie said. “The herbicide, which U.S. forces sprayed to eliminate cover and destroy crops, was contaminated with the deadly chemical dioxin.

“After the war, the toll of Agent Orange manifested itself in severe skin rashes, cancers, diabetes, birth defects and a litany of other health issues. Passage of the Agent Orange Act in 1991 relaxed proof requirements for certain illnesses presumed to be caused by the chemical, although some conditions with a suspected link – including the form of aggressive brain cancer that killed John McCain – are still not covered.

“Vietnam veterans make up the largest group of veterans in Pennsylvania today. Nearly half a million served during the Vietnam War era, and an estimated 172,000 directly participated in the war. We owe it to the thousands who have died or suffered serious illnesses from Agent Orange to continue raising awareness about the deadly consequences of its use.”  

Matzie noted that from 1962 to 1971, U.S. military planes dumped nearly 20 million gallons of Agent Orange – named for the orange stripes on the chemical storage drums – on Vietnam and portions of Laos and Cambodia.

Under the Agent Orange Act of 1991, 14 conditions are presumed caused by Agent Orange: Chronic B-cell leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers including lung cancer, some soft-tissue sarcomas, AL amyloidosis, chloracne, Type 2 diabetes, ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, early-onset peripheral neuropathy, and porphyria cutanea tarda.