In the isolated Aluoi Valley of central Viet Nam, very high levels of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) were measured in soil, fish fat, duck fat, pooled human blood and breast milk samples collected from A So village between 1996 and 1999. The village was situated on a former military base occupied by US Special Forces between 1963 and 1966. TCDD was a contaminant of the herbicide "Agent Orange", aerially sprayed in the valley between 1965 and 1970, and stored at the A So base. Measured levels were lower near the sites of two other former US bases in the valley which had been occupied for shorter periods of time. In areas where Agent Orange had been applied by low-flying aircraft, levels of TCDD in soil, food and human samples were elevated, but lower than those near the three former US bases. We confirm the apparent food chain transfer of TCDD from contaminated soil to cultured fish pond sediments to fish and duck tissues, then to humans as measured in whole blood and breast milk. We theorize that the Aluoi Valley is a microcosm of southern Viet Nam, where numerous reservoirs of TCDD exist in the soil of former military installations south of the former demilitarized zone. Large quantities of Agent Orange were stored at many sites, used in ground and aerial applications, and spilled. TCDD, through various forms of soil disturbance, can be mobilized from these reservoirs after decades below the surface, and subsequently, introduced into the human food chain. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
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