VIETNAM veteran Rob Doherty has taken more notice than most with talk of having fluoride in Geelong’s water supply appearing again after the topic seemed long dead.
One of the options recently outlined by Water Minister John Thwaites to ensure Geelong has enough water to meet future needs is to tap into Melbourne’s water supply.
An easy enough solution on the surface — but the catch is that Melbourne’s water contains fluoride.
As a soldier serving in Vietnam in the early 1970s, Mr Doherty said he was exposed to Agent Orange, DDT and any number of unknown chemicals used for aerial spraying.
He retired from the army 20 years ago, and is now on a TPI service pension.
Mr Doherty, who turns 57 today, has a theory about Vietnam veterans. Like so many others he h a s o b s e r v e d, Mr Doherty has a distended stomach — a condition he puts down to a number of things, including exposure to chemicals.
As a member of the regular army, Sergeant Doherty said he was posted to the Mekong Delta area in South Vietnam where Agent Orange was sprayed as a defoliant.
‘‘The unit I was with was a logistics unit, we were at Vung Tau, and to be honest I didn’t put any credence on it at all and I continued serving,’’ he said.
‘‘And when I was diagnosed with all these ulcers, one of the guys said to me ‘you were at Vung Tau and so you were sprayed,’ and I said ‘no mate, I wasn’t sprayed.’
‘‘Of course I was sprayed, it’s 15kms down (to where they were spraying) and it’s got a wind drift of about 20 to 25 kilometres.’’
He returned from Vietnam in March, 1971, after a 12-month tour, but it was not until about four years later that Mr Doherty first noticed something was wrong.
‘‘We had changed offices, and I had gone into an air-conditioned office and during the winter they changed the air conditioning and turned it to warm and all these welts appeared on my body,’’ he explained.
‘‘They were like pimples, they would come up and then they would collapse so they looked like a crater — itchy as anything.’’ Mr Doherty eventually found that all the soft tissue in his joints was deteriorating. He continued to suffer from a variety of complaints, including ulcers in his stomach, and found that, among other things, he was allergic to fluoride.
Mr Doherty said that whenever he goes to Melbourne, he can’t drink the water, or even drink tea or coffee. ‘‘If you go to a normal restaurant like here in Geelong my wife just orders a bottle of water,’’ he said.
‘‘I can taste the fluoride if the water is fluoridated and I have all sorts of problems.
‘‘I have allergic reactions to it, I get all these funny little welts all over my body and I feel crook.
‘‘So I’m really careful of it, and when I’m in Melbourne I buy bottled water.’’
Mr Doherty said the State Government should be pointing out that fluoride was a poison.
‘‘People who wish to take fluoride can do so, but do not force us to be medicated with this poison against our wishes.’’