Agent Orange report 'too vague,' critics say

A retired Ontario Hydro worker in Sudbury says a new report looking at the impact of the chemical 2,4,5-T is too little, too late.

Report doesn't make direct link between exposure to 2,4,5-T and cancer, or other illnesses

The Ontario government has released the results of a long-awaited investigation into the toxic chemical Agent Orange and the workers who were exposed to it. 2:36

 A retired Ontario Hydro worker in Sudbury says a new report looking at the impact of the chemical 2,4,5-T is too little, too late.

The report was released yesterday by an independent panel established by the province in 2011.

The chemical is used in the herbicide know as Agent Orange — and hundreds of provincial employees were exposed to unsafe levels of the chemical between the 1950s and 1970s.

The report still did not prove that a worker's illness was caused by the chemical exposure, however.

Those employees worked for the Ministries of Natural Resources and Transportation and Ontario Hydro. 

One retired Hydro employee, 78-year-old Daniel Crawford, says he has seen several of his friends and former work colleagues die of prostate cancer.

Crawford has the disease himself, and blames the four decades he spent working in the forestry division of Ontario Hydro, when his job involved spraying 2,4,5-T to clear brush.

He thought this report would never came out, he said. And now that it has, it's too late.

"It's not going to change my life because I've already been through it and some of the affects were not good for me."

‘Acceptable’ margin of safety 'exceeded'

The report didn’t go far enough, said Carol Brown Parker, a spokesperson with the Agent Orange Association of Canada.

"They should have had more answers … a lot more answers than what he was giving," she said.

"It's too vague. I don't think there's any responsibility taken — yet. All that was said was that he was sorry it happened, but that's it."

Panel chair Dr. Leonard Ritter defended the decision not to make a direct link between exposure to the chemical and cancer or other illnesses.

"The risk assessment only indicates that an acceptable margin of safety has been exceeded based on the methodology we used for certain occupationally-exposed groups, and that their health could have been affected, but not necessarily so," he said.

 "The panel concluded that the risk of disease due to bystander exposure to 2,4,5-T would be very low."

The provincial workers weren't the largest group exposed to the highly toxic herbicide, but the panel's mandate was limited in scope, added Ritter.

"Most use of the herbicide in Ontario was not by the government of Ontario but rather by private and municipal users," he said.

 "The assessment of these non-government uses was beyond the panels' scope and not included in the evaluations."

Close to 400 WSIB cases

Brown Parker said she'd like to see former employees tested and have the government help with medical bills.

Natural Resources Minister David Orazetti said people who think they may have gotten ill because of their exposure to the herbicide should contact the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to file a claim.

But he warned they will need medical evidence to prove their illness came from exposure to 2,4,5-T.

Critics point out the WSIB has nearly 400 open cases from workers who claim the herbicide is to blame for their cancer, and say the report merely gives the agency and the government more time to drag their feet.

Crawford said the WSIB told him they were waiting for this report.

"So it would sound like they would be able to move forward at this point, but who knows."

At the very least, Crawford said he hopes the report will teach future generations to think twice about the chemicals they're using in the workplace.

With files from Canadian Press