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Agent Orange victims get Scientology detox

Dozens of Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange have embarked on a controversial detoxification treatment plan developed by the Church of Scientology, a Hanoi hospital director said.

US aircraft sprayed chemical defoliants such as Agent Orange over vast swathes of jungle during the Vietnam War in an attempt to flush out Viet Cong communist guerrillas by depriving them of tree cover and food.

The 24 people being treated on a trial basis at Hanoi’s 103 Hospital have all been living near the central Danang Airbase, a known dioxin ‘hotspot’, and have all tested positive for elevated levels of the highly toxic compound.

The patients will receive the Hubbard method treatment, which consists largely of saunas, exercise and vitamins, said Hoang Manh An, director of the 103 Hospital.

“The Hubbard method... has not yet been used for the cleansing of dioxin. We want to confirm the value of this method in cleansing dioxin infection,” he said, adding he believed it would be effective, especially as there is no other way to treat dioxin exposure.

Hanoi says up to three million Vietnamese people were exposed to dioxin from Agent Orange and that one million suffer grave health repercussions today, including at least 150,000 children born with birth defects.

The Danang Airbase was a key site in the US defoliant programme during the Vietnam War, where much of the 80 million litres of Agent Orange used during Operation Ranch Hand was mixed, stored and loaded on to planes.

Last month, the US and Vietnam began the first ever joint clean-up of the area.

Founded in 1954 by late US science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology is recognised as a religion in the US. It claims a worldwide membership of 12 million.

But it has long been controversial, notably in Europe. In France it was convicted of fraud in 2009 and fined hundreds of thousands of euro for fleecing vulnerable followers. The conviction was upheld this year.

While the patients were receiving treatment for free, it was unclear whether the hospital or the church was funding the treatment.

The Defoliant that left many deformed

•Agent Orange was one of a class of colour-coded herbicides that US forces sprayed over the rural landscape in Vietnam to kill trees, shrubs and food crops to flush out Viet Cong communist guerrillas by depriving them of tree cover and food.

•The production of Agent Orange was halted in the 1970s, existing stocks were destroyed and it is no longer used.

•Vietnamese scientists have linked veterans’ exposure to Agent Orange to high rates of digestive ­ailments, neural disease, skin diseases and cancers.

•Women living in sprayed regions have experienced high rates of premature birth, spontaneous ­abortions, stillbirths, molar pregnancy, uterine cancer and severe birth defects.

•The effects also persist in the form of ecologically degraded landscapes in parts of the hilly and ­mountainous areas of Vietnam.

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