Friday, April 3, 2015

Letter D: The Choose Your Poison #AtoZChallenge

     His father fought in the second World War, was captured by German soldiers and imprisoned in a series of concentration camps including Auschwitz-Birkenau.  He was a presidential candidate, a popular political force, a former prime minister. The campaign was bitterly contested, but he had built an excellent rapport with many of his countrymen, taking the time to shake hands and meet face-to-face with them.   And then he became ill.
     He was flown to a special clinic and treated at first for pancreatitis, bloating, jaundice, and a viral infection.  But it was the appearance of pockmarks all over his face that gave a British toxicologist a clue as to the man's condition.  He declared that the facial disfigurement had all the hallmarks of chloracne, which results from a particular type of poison.
File:Viktor Yuschenko.jpg







     Have you guessed our mystery man's name?  It's Viktor Yushchenko, former President of Ukraine, and today's featured poison is dioxin.
     Yushchenko survived, but it has never been proven how, or even whether, he was poisoned. A Dutch toxicologist claimed that he found dioxin levels 6000 times normal in his blood. Another doctor said it was 1000 times the average level. A third doctor opined that there was no evidence of dioxin poisoning other than the chloracne, and later claimed that he was forced to resign and had also been threatened by Yushchenko's cohorts.
     For years afterward there were  claims of falsified information, skewed lab results, bribery, and other forms of good-old-fashioned thuggery. Blood tests by Ukrainian doctors in November 2005 were mysteriously destroyed.
     Yushchenko believes he was deliberately poisoned during a dinner in 2004; at least one of the men that he thinks crucial to the investigation is in Russia and refuses to be extradited.  Others have blamed it on the dinner, all right, but claim that it was the sushi, not the company which made Yushchenko so ill. It all reads like a long, convoluted spy novel.
     Fortunately, he survived the episode although he may suffer from the effects all of his life. I last saw Yushchenko on television during the recent political upheaval, when Yushchenko urged his country to choose integration with Europe over ties with Russia. His face looked far less disfigured than it had 10 years prior.

******
     If the word dioxin sounds familiar to you, then Agent Orange may be the reason. Agent Orange (named for the striped barrels it was shipped in) was an herbicide containing dioxin which was sprayed heavily over fields and forest canopy in Vietnam by the Americans during the war. In addition to thousands of American soldiers, the Red Cross estimates that up to 3 million Vietnamese have been affected by dioxin poisoning, which can also cause various cancers and birth defects.
      Dioxins are by-products and are formed as toxic side residues in the production of PCBs, metal smelting, waste incineration and chlorine bleaching of paper.  Dioxin concentrates in the body's fatty tissues and is extremely difficult to get rid of.
     In 2012 the EPA released a report which concluded after reviewing mounds of evidence collected over 21 years that there are potentially serious effects at even ultra-low levels of exposure.  Most of us have traces of dioxins in our bodies, primarily through eating fish, meat and other animal products.
     One more reason to become vegan, I suppose.



    
The Red Cross estimates that three million Vietnamese have been affected by Agent Orange, including 150,000 children born with severe birth defects. - See more at: http://makeagentorangehistory.org/about-agent-orange/agent-orange-dioxin/#sthash.ETVH9FdH.dpuf
The Red Cross estimates that three million Vietnamese have been affected by Agent Orange, including 150,000 children born with severe birth defects. - See more at: http://makeagentorangehistory.org/about-agent-orange/agent-orange-dioxin/#sthash.ETVH9FdH.dpuf
The Red Cross estimates that three million Vietnamese have been affected by Agent Orange, including 150,000 children born with severe birth defects. - See more at: http://makeagentorangehistory.org/about-agent-orange/agent-orange-dioxin/#sthash.ETVH9FdH.dpuf

15 comments:

  1. I'm really enjoying these poison lessons. You should bundle this as a book for writers when your done. This knowledge is handy for stories. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's probably a good idea, Chuck. But I fear I'm too lazy to actually do it. :/

      Delete
  2. Sounds like there was more to his poisoning than what is being revealed.
    Scary that just a little bit will stay with you for so long.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lots of rumors, misinformation, etc. floating around about the Yushchenko case. But from what I've learned about poisons for the challenge, it's pretty doubtful that it was caused by whatever he had for dinner.

      Delete
  3. Yes you have to love cuddly Vladir Putin - nothing to do with the death of Nemstov, of course...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Replies
    1. Thanks Helen. I'm really learning a lot of interesting things by researching these posts!

      Delete
  5. A fascinating theme, Li. Have you a poison for every letter? I started the challenge so convinced I could cover the alphabet with my theme. I'm struggling but I'll get there. All bests!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had to "stretch" for 2 letters. Fortunately, Q and Z were easy (for once). I think all of us have to employ some imagination for a few posts. But that's all part of the challenge!

      Delete
  6. Tempted to give up meat, fish and animal products now...

    ReplyDelete
  7. politics and mystery, made for each other

    ReplyDelete
  8. My sister did a paper on agent orange. I helped her research and found a PDF that talked about the other agents they used too. Purple, blue, white were some of the colors. It had pictures of babies born from exposed parents. It was so sad.

    ReplyDelete