Primary Source Report – SC

JAN BARRY. “Troubling Questions about Dioxin.” New York Times (1923-Current File), Sep 11, 1983.

“Troubling Question about Dioxin,” is an article that was published in the New York Times in 1983. The article recounts that finding toxic dioxin levels in Newark was startling as no one ever thought to question how chemical plants would affect residents. The article also discusses the effects Agent Orange seemed to be having on veterans who were exposed to it in Vietnam despite government assurances that there was no danger from the chemical. The article will be useful in the development of my argument in several ways. First, it shows how no one questioned the production of dangerous chemicals in Newark among other places. This leads to the question- would people have cared if a chemical company proposed opening a factory in an affluent area? Second, the article explains that neither the federal government nor the EPA was concerned about the issue until an independent environmental activist wrote up his finding of dioxin levels in Newark. This shows how no attention was paid to the issue until a grassroots movement began to demand answers in regards to the problem. The idea of a grassroots movement being used to address the issue is something that comes up both in Newark and later in Vietnam and will help develop a transnational history between the two places. Last, the article explains the various ways reporters were shocked by the news that dioxin levels were found in Newark. Barry explains that no one in government ever expressed a concern about dioxin levels- in fact, government experts had repeatedly maintained that Agent Orange was safe. The fact that this issue is going to lead to individuals questioning the government will be used to help develop the section of my paper that deals with intent and knowledge when it comes to the creation of these plants in specific areas. 

LAURA MANSNERUS. “Newark’s Toxic Tomb: Six Acres Fouled by Dioxin, Agent Orange’s Deadly Byproduct, Reside in the Shadow of an Awakening Downtown.” New York Times (1923-Current File), Nov 08, 1998.

“Newark’s Toxic Bomb,” is an article that was published in the New York Times in 1998. Although published years after the production of Agent Orange, the article details the ways in which Newark residents attempted to address the problem of a toxic waste site and what the eventual solution was. There are three ways this source will be helpful in my paper. First, the source describes the disconnect between the residents of Newark and politicians. Interviews show that the residents of Newark do not feel as if the politicians in charge care about the well-being of Newark or its residents. This will help me develop a transnational history that showcases how race and class play a role in where environmental injustice takes place. Second, the article explains that the way Newark intended to deal with the toxic waste site was to simply seal it off- they weren’t actually going to fix anything. This too fits in with the idea of a transnational history in which lands in Vietnam were also simply left alone. Last, the article addresses the symposium arranged at Setton Hall in which Newark residents gathered to discuss the chemical waste issues in Newark. As I have a secondary source which did a write up of the event, this newspaper article gives another view of the symposium and the importance of it. This will help the development of my paper as it showcases a difference between the people of Newark and the people of Vietnam: the people of Newark have the opportunity to gather and demand a solution while the people of Vietnam do not.

Michael Moran. “Company Documents Reveal Agent Orange Producer Warned OF Hazards in 1957.” AP News December 27, 1988. 

This newspaper article discusses how factory workers in Newark banded together to file a class-action lawsuit against Diamond Alkali. The plaintiffs hold that the company knew about the dangers of dioxin and did not put safety measures into place in order to save money. The article will be used to develop my argument in two ways. First, it is one of the only articles I’ve found, as early as 1988, that discusses the fact that factory workers were attempting to sue the chemical company. This will help make the argument that protests against veterans exposed to Agent Orange and protest about the fact that Newark workers were exposed to Agent Orange were not equal. The article will help to show that while people realized a toxic waste site was in Newark in 1983, they did not attempt to help the workers who were exposed to Agent Orange while they worked there. Second, the article will help establish the fact that workers did gather together to fight for compensation and will be used in conjunction with any court documents available to piece together their story. The story of Newark residents will then be analyzed in the context of both veterans and Vietnamese civilians. 

RALPH BLUMENTHAL. “Files show Dioxin Makers Knew of Hazards: Court Records show Dioxin Makers Knew of Evidence of Health Hazards.” New York Times (1923-Current File), Jul 06, 1983.

Published in the New York Times in 1983, this article discusses released documents that show that chemical companies knew of the dangers associated with Agent Orange and deliberately withheld this information from the government. The article states that the Dow Company told the government about the dangers of Agent Orange in 1970 and that the government stated this was the first time they were hearing about the issue. The article traces the history of Dow and its records about the effects of dioxin and explains when the government was given information about the dangers of dioxin. This article will help with the development of my argument in several ways. First, the article was written as a class-action suit brought by veterans needed to prove that the company knew about the dangers of dioxin and did not warn the government if they were to win their suit. The ramifications of this are enormous but also lead to many questions. If the government truly did not know about the effects of dioxin, does this absolve them of anything? Would they have done more research about the chemical if they were going to be using it in a European country? The article will help develop the argument that environmental injustice takes place so that people can make money- it also takes place in areas where the people can not look into the possible ramifications of a factory or plant. Second, the article addresses the issue of workers who worked in these factories and were exposed to dioxin. The article does not solely focus on the issue of veterans, it takes into account the damage done to workers who showed up to their jobs with no knowledge of the poison they were handling every day. Companies like Dow deliberately withheld information, not only from the government but from workers as well. And, while veterans were attempting to get compensation, no one was really talking about the Newark residents which help prove the argument that race and class are essential when it comes to the way environmental injustice is dealt with. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs, Agent Orange Review: Information for Veterans who Served in Vietnam.” Vol 1 No 1, November 1982.

This report is the first in a series of reports written by the VA for veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. The information in the report is helpful in identifying the effects of Agent Orange, but the fact that there is such a report is more important than what is in it. 1982 was the year that people first began to question the effects of dioxin and Agent Orange. This was the year the first newspaper articles were published on the topic and it’s the first year that the government admitted that Agent Orange may have been a problem. While both of those things are good, the fact that veterans are really the only group of people who are getting information and help for exposure to Agent Orange is troubling. This report, as well as the others, will help the development of my argument as veterans are going to be used as a contrast group in my paper. While veterans have access (although many would argue limited access) to information and help for exposure to Agent Orange, the same can not be said for residents of Newark or for Vietnamese civilians. This helps to develop a transnational history in which residents of Newark and people in Vietnam are both left in the dark when it comes to the dangers of the chemicals they were exposed to. Additionally, the people of Newark and Vietnam did not get the same access to healthcare that veterans did during this critical period. 

Keywords: race, class, toxics, water, factories, global,