South Koreans to begin second phase of test for chemical exposure
SEOUL — More than 1,000 people living near Camp Carroll in South Korea will undergo a battery of tests to determine whether they have been exposed to chemicals including dioxin, a component of Agent Orange.
Even though a multimillion-dollar, joint U.S.-South Korean investigation recently found no evidence of the toxic defoliant, testing will begin next week in the second phase of a nearly yearlong health assessment of villagers near the Waegwan base.
A former U.S. soldier claims that he buried hundreds of barrels of Agent Orange at Carroll in 1978, sparking fear among area residents who worried that the Vietnam-era defoliant had contaminated local water supplies.
The allegations, made in May 2011, prompted the probe that included extensive ground and soil sampling, as well as interviews of nearly 200 people. However, the investigation team announced in December that it had found no evidence of Agent Orange. The U.S. spent $3 million to $4 million on the investigation, while South Korea spent the equivalent of $1.3 million.
As part of the second round of the health assessment, 1,145 people — randomly selected from 5,375 who participated in an initial round of testing in September — have been invited to undergo testing between Feb. 13 and 26, which will include blood and urine sampling and will note the source of residents’ drinking water, according to local officials.
Results of the testing will be released in August.
Kim Geun Bae, a senior researcher with the National Institute of Environmental Research, said that further testing may be conducted if the agency finds evidence of chemical exposure and a higher-than-normal rate of certain diseases, including leukemia.
Despite the lack of evidence of an Agent Orange burial, Kim said the health testing will continue because trace amounts of other chemicals were found during testing, and many residents don’t believe the investigation results.
“They say the results are hiding the truth, so we’re doing this to resolve residents’ distrust,” he said.