New state commission will study Agent Orange chemical exposure at Canadian military base
A state commission to study Maine National Guard members' exposure to Agent Orange at the Gagetown Canadian military base got underway on Wednesday.
Agent Orange was sprayed on 83 acres at the Gagetown facility in 1966 and 1967. Four years later Maine National Guard members trained there, and have since reported cases of cancer, respiratory illnesses and other diseases.
"I stopped counting at 950 claims. Many of those were for Gagetown. I got shut down immediately because there was no avenue for Maine Nat Guard men and women to file claims to recover for the physical abuse they had to take that the Vietnam veterans had to take," said Jim Gehring, a U.S. Navy Veteran who spent 20 years as a Field Service Officer in Aroostook County assisting Guard Members to process claims.
The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry determined that the concentrations of contaminants at Gagetown did not pose a public health hazard three years after the spraying. Agent Orange has been linked to dozens of diseases that appear decades after exposure. The commission says it plans to verify its findings about the Agent Orange program with environmental experts and Canadian officials in hopes of getting justice for Maine National Guard members.