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U.S. Army Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over Vietnamese agricultural land


Vietnamese man born with deformed face as a result of prenatal exposure to Agent Orange.

Agent Orange is the code name for one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971.

A 50:50 mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, it was manufactured for the U.S. Department of Defense primarily by Monsanto Corporation and Dow Chemical. The herbicides used to produce Agent Orange were later discovered to be contaminated with 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin, an extremely toxic dioxin compound. It was given its name from the color of the orange-striped 55 US gallon (200 L) barrels in which it was shipped, and was by far the most widely used of the so-called "Rainbow Herbicides".[1]

During the Vietnam war, between 1962 and 1971, the United States military sprayed Template:Convert/USgal of chemical herbicides and defoliants in Vietnam, eastern Laos and parts of Cambodia, as part of Operation Ranch Hand.[2] The program's goal was to defoliate forested and rural land, depriving guerrillas of cover; another goal was to induce forced draft urbanization, destroying the ability of peasants to support themselves in the countryside, and forcing them to flee to the U.S. dominated cities, thus depriving the guerrillas of their rural support base and food supply.[3][4]

Air Force records show that at least 6,542 spraying missions took place over the course of Operation Ranch Hand.[5] By 1971, 12 percent of the total area of South Vietnam had been sprayed with defoliating chemicals, which were often applied at rates that were 13 times as high as the legal USDA limit.[6] In South Vietnam alone, an estimated 10 million hectares of agricultural land were ultimately destroyed.[7] In some areas TCDD concentrations in soil and water were hundreds of times greater than the levels considered "safe" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.[8][9] Overall, more than 20% of South Vietnam's forests were sprayed at least once over a nine year period.[4]

The US began to target food crops in October 1962, primarily using Agent Blue. In 1965, 42 percent of all herbicide spraying was dedicated to food crops.[4] Rural-to-urban migration rates dramatically increased in South Vietnam, as peasants escaped the destruction and famine in the countryside by fleeing to the U.S.-dominated cities. The urban population in South Vietnam more than tripled: from 2.8 million people in 1958, to 8 million by 1971. The rapid flow of people led to a fast-paced and uncontrolled urbanization; an estimated 1.5 million people were living in Saigon slums, while many South Vietnamese elites and U.S. personnel lived in luxury.[10]

According to Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, resulting in 400,000 people being killed or maimed, and 500,000 children born with birth defects.[11]

Chemical description and toxicology

File:Agent Orange.svg

Iso-octyl 2,4-D and iso-octyl 2,4,5-T





Chemically, Agent Orange is an approximately 1:1 mixture of two phenoxyl herbicides -- 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T) -- in iso-octyl ester form.[12]

Numerous studies have examined health effects linked to Agent Orange, its component compounds, and its manufacturing byproducts.[13]

Prior to the controversy surrounding Agent Orange, there was already a large body of scientific evidence linking 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D to serious negative health effects and ecological damage.[14] But in 1969 it was revealed to the public that the 2,4,5-T was contaminated with a dioxin, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD), and that the TCDD was causing many of the previously unexplained adverse health effects which were correlated with Agent Orange exposure.[15] TCDD has been described as "perhaps the most toxic molecule ever synthesized by man".[16] Internal memos reveal that Monsanto Corporation (a manufacturer of 2,4,5-T) had informed the U.S. government as early as 1952 that 2,4,5-T that was contaminated with a toxic chemical.[17]

In 1979, the Yale biologist Arthur Galston, who specializes in herbicide research, published a review of what was known at the time about the toxicity of TCDD. Even "vanishingly small" quantities of dioxin in the diet caused adverse health effects when tested on animals.[18] Since then, TCDD has been comprehensively studied. It has been associated with increased neoplasms in every animal bioassay reported in the scientific literature.[19] The National Toxicology Program has classified TCDD as "known to be a human carcinogen", frequently associated with soft-tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).[20][21]

While the two herbicides that make up Agent Orange 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T remain toxic over a short period—a scale of days or weeks—they quickly degrade. However, a 1969 report authored by K. Diane Courtney and others found that 2,4,5-T could cause birth defects and still births in mice.[22] Several studies have shown an increase rate of cancer mortality for workers exposed to 2,4,5-T. In one such study, from Hamburg, Germany, the risk of cancer mortality increased by 170% after working for 10 years at the 2,4,5-T producing section of a Hamburg manufacturing plant.[19] Three studies have suggested that prior exposure to Agent Orange poses an increase in the risk of acute myelogenous leukemia in the children of Vietnam veterans.[13]

Starting in 1991 the US Congress tasked the Institute of Medicine to review the scientific literature on Agent Orange and the other herbicides used in Vietnam, including their active ingredients and the dioxin contaminant. The IOM found an association found between dioxin exposure and diabetes.[23][24]

Early development

In 1943 plant biologist Arthur Galston began studying the compound triiodobenzoic acid as a plant growth hormone, in an attempt to adapt soybeans to a short growing season. Galston found that excessive usage of the compound caused catastrophic defoliation — a finding later used by his colleague Ian Sussex to develop the family of herbicides used in Operation Ranch Hand.[25] Galston was especially concerned about the compound’s side effects to humans and the environment.[26]

In 1943, the U.S. Department of the Army contracted the University of Chicago to study the effects of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T on cereal grains (including rice) and broadleaf crops. From these studies arose the concept of using aerial applications of herbicides to destroy enemy crops to disrupt their food supply. In early 1945, the U.S. army ran tests of various 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T mixtures at the Bushnell Army Air Field in Florida, which is now listed as a Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS).[27][28]

Use in the Vietnam War


Map showing locations of U.S. army aerial herbicide spray missions in South Vietnam from taking place from 1965 to 1971

During the Vietnam war, between 1962 and 1971, the United States military sprayed Template:Convert/USgal of chemical herbicides and defoliants in Vietnam, eastern Laos and parts of Cambodia, as part of the aerial defoliation program known as Operation Ranch Hand.[2] The goal was to defoliate rural/forested land, depriving guerrillas of food and cover and clearing in sensitive areas such as around base perimeters.[29] The program was also a part of a general policy of forced draft urbanization, which aimed to destroy the ability of peasants to support themselves in the countryside, forcing them to flee to the U.S. dominated cities, depriving the guerrillas of their rural support base.[3][4]


Military film footage of U.S. troops spraying Agent Orange from a riverboat in Vietnam

Spraying was usually done either from helicopters or from low-flying C-123 Provider aircraft, fitted with sprayers and "MC-1 Hourglass" pump systems and Template:Convert/USgal chemical tanks. However, spray runs were also conducted from trucks, boats, and backpack sprayers.[30][31][32]

The first batch of herbicides was unloaded at Tan Son Nhut Airbase in South Vietnam, on January 9, 1962.[1] Air Force records show that at least 6,542 spraying missions took place over the course of Operation Ranch Hand.[5] By 1971, 12 percent of the total area of South Vietnam had been sprayed with defoliating chemicals, which were often applied at rates that were 13 times as high as the legal USDA limit.[6] In South Vietnam alone, an estimated 10 million hectares of agricultural land were ultimately destroyed.[7] In some areas TCDD concentrations in soil and water were hundreds of times greater than the levels considered "safe" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.[8][9]

The campaign destroyed Template:Convert/e6acre of upland and mangrove forests and millions of acres of crops. Overall, more than 20% of South Vietnam's forests were sprayed at least once over a nine year period.[4][33]

In 1965, members of the U.S. Congress were told that "crop destruction is understood to be the more important purpose ... but the emphasis is usually given to the jungle defoliation in public mention of the program."[33] Soldiers were told that they were destroying crops because they were going to be used to feed guerrillas. However, they later discovered that nearly all of the food they had been destroying was not being produced for guerrillas; it was, in reality, only being grown to support the local civilian population. For example, in Quang Ngai province, 85% of the crop lands were scheduled to be destroyed in 1970 alone. Widespread famine occurred as a result, leaving hundreds of thousands of people malnourished or starving.[34]

The U.S. military began targeting food crops in October 1962, primarily using Agent Blue; however, the American public was not made aware of the crop destruction programs until 1965 (and it was then believed that crop spraying had begun that spring). In 1965, 42 percent of all herbicide spraying was dedicated to food crops. The first official acknowledgement of the programs came from the State Department in March 1966.[4][28]

Many experts at the time, including Arthur Galston, the biologist who developed and intensively studied TCDD, opposed herbicidal warfare, due to concerns about the side-effects to humans and the environment by indiscriminately spraying the chemical over a wide area. As early as 1966, resolutions were introduced to the United Nations charging that the U.S. was violating the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which regulated the use of chemical and biological weapons.[26][35]

Effects on the Vietnamese people

Health effects


Dead Vietnamese babies, deformed as a result of prenatal dioxin exposure from Agent Orange


Major Tu Duc Phang (from Khanh Hoa Province), looking at his portrait taken before he joined the Vietnamese army. In 1973, he fought at the southern battlefield and participated in saving the weapon store in Nha Trang (Khanh Hoa). Twelve years later, Phang saw large, black and red spots and water bubbles appearing on his body and all his hair had fallen out, which was caused by exposure to dioxin-contaminated Agent Orange

The Vietnam Red Cross reports that as many as 3 million Vietnamese people have been affected by Agent Orange including at least 150,000 children born with birth defects.[36] According to Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, resulting in 400,000 people being killed or maimed, and 500,000 children born with birth defects.[11]

Children in the areas where Agent Orange was used have been affected and have multiple health problems including cleft palate, mental disabilities, hernias, and extra fingers and toes.[37] In the 1970s, high levels of dioxin were found in the breast milk of South Vietnamese women, and in the blood of U.S. soldiers who had served in Vietnam.[38] The most affected zones are the mountainous area along Truong Son (Long Mountains) and the border between Vietnam and Cambodia. The affected residents are living in sub-standard conditions with many genetic diseases.[39]

About 28 of the former US military bases in Vietnam where the herbicides were stored and loaded onto airplanes still have high level of dioxins in the soil posing a health threat to the surrounding communities. These 'hotspots' have dioxin contamination that is up to 350 times higher than international recommendations for action. The contaminated soil and sediment continue to affect the citizens of Vietnam, poisoning their food chain and causing illnesses, serious skin diseases as well as a variety of cancers in the lungs, larynx, and prostate.[37]

Ecological effects

17.8% (about 3,100,000 ha) of the total forested area of Vietnam was sprayed during the war, which dramatically disrupted ecological equilibrium. Furthermore, the persistant nature of dioxins, erosion caused by loss of protective tree cover, and loss of seeding forest stock, meant that reforestation was difficult or impossible in many areas. [40] Many defoliated forest areas were quickly invaded by aggressive pioneer species such as bamboo and cogon grass, which make it unlikely that the forests will be able to regenerate. Animal species diversity was also significantly impacted: in one study, a Harvard biologist found that in a sprayed forest there were 24 species of birds and 5 species of mammals, while in two adjacent sections of unsprayed forest there were 145 and 170 species of birds and 30 and 55 species of mammals.[41]

Dioxins from Agent Orange have persisted in the Vietnamese environment since the war, migrating through soil and being transported by a variety of natural processes into the water supply. Movement of dioxins through the food web has resulted in bioconcentration and biomagnification.[42] The areas most heavily contaminated with dioxins are the sites of former U.S. air bases.[43]

Socio-political effects

The RAND Corporation's Memorandum 5446-ISA/ARPA states that: "the fact that the VC obtain most of their food from the neutral rural population dictates the destruction of civilian crops ... if they (the VC) are to be hampered by the crop destruction program, it will be necessary to destroy large portions of the rural economy -- probably 50% or more".[44]

Rural-to-urban migration rates dramatically increased in South Vietnam, as peasants escaped the destruction in the countryside by fleeing to the U.S.-dominated cities. The urban population in South Vietnam more than tripled: from 2.8 million people in 1958, to 8 million by 1971. The rapid flow of people led to a fast-paced and uncontrolled urbanization; an estimated 1.5 million people were living in Saigon slums, while many South Vietnamese elites and U.S. personnel lived in luxury.[10]

Effects on U.S. veterans

Studies of veterans who served in the South during the war have increased rates of cancer, nerve, digestive, skin and respiratory disorders. Among the cancers veterans from the south had higher rates of throat cancer, acute/chronic leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer, lung cancer, soft tissue sarcoma and liver cancer. Other than liver cancer, these are the same conditions that the US Veteran’s Administration has found to be associated with exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin and are on the list of conditions eligible for compensation and treatment.[36]

Military personnel who loaded airplanes and helicopters used in Ranch Hand probably sustained some of the heaviest exposures. Members of the Army Chemical Corps, who stored and mixed herbicides and defoliated the perimeters of military bases, are also thought to have had some of the heaviest exposures. Others with potentially heavy exposures included members of U.S. Army Special Forces units who defoliated remote campsites, and members of U.S. Navy river units who cleared base perimeters.[45]

While in Vietnam, the veterans were told not to worry, and were persuaded that the chemical was harmless.[46] However, after returning home, Vietnam Veterans began to suspect that their ill health or the instances of their wives having miscarriages or children born with birth defects may be related to Agent Orange and the other toxic herbicides they were exposed to in Vietnam. Veterans began to file claims in 1977 to the Department of Veterans Affairs for disability payments or health care for conditions that they believed were associated with exposure Agent Orange, or more specifically dioxin, but their claims were denied unless they could prove that the condition began when they were in the service or within one year of their discharge.

By April 1993, the Department of Veterans Affairs had only compensated 486 victims, although it had received disability claims from 39,419 soldiers who had been exposed to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam.[47]

Legal and diplomatic proceedings

US veterans class action lawsuit against manufacturers

Since at least 1978, several lawsuits have been filed against the companies which produced Agent Orange, among them Dow Chemical, Monsanto, and Diamond Shamrock.

Hy Mayerson of the law firm The Mayerson Law Offices, P.C. was an early pioneer in Agent Orange litigation, working with renowned environmental attorney Victor Yannacone in 1980 on the first class-action suits against wartime manufacturers of Agent Orange. In meeting Dr. Ronald A. Codario, one of the first civilian doctors to see afflicted patients, Mayerson, so impressed by the fact that an M.D. would show so much interest in a Vietnam veteran, forwarded more than a thousand pages of information on Agent Orange and the effects of dioxin on animals and humans to Codario's office the day after he was first contacted by the doctor.[48] The corporate defendants sought to escape culpability by blaming everything on the U.S. government.[49]

The Mayerson Law Offices, P.C., with Sgt. Charles E. Hartz as their principal client, filed the first Agent Orange class action lawsuit, in Pennsylvania in 1980, for the injuries that soldiers in Vietnam suffered through exposure to toxic dioxins in the Agent Orange defoliant.[50] Attorney Hy Mayerson co-wrote the brief that certified the Agent Orange Product Liability action as a class action, the largest ever filed as of its filing.[51] Hartz’s deposition was one of the first ever taken in America, and the first for an Agent Orange trial, for the purpose of preserving testimony at trial, as it was understood that Hartz would not live to see the trial because of the brain tumor that began to develop while he was a member of Tiger Force, Special Forces, and LRRPs in Vietnam.[52][53] The firm also located and supplied critical research to the Veterans’ lead expert Dr. Ronald A. Codario, M.D., including approximately one hundred articles from toxicology journals dating back more than a decade, as well as data about where herbicides had been sprayed, what the effects of dioxin had been on animals and humans, and every accident in factories where herbicides were produced or dioxin was a contaminant of some chemical reaction.[48]

In 1984, the class-action suit was settled out of court for $180 million; slightly over 45% of this was ordered to be paid by Monsanto alone.[54][55] However, many veterans who were victims of Agent Orange exposure were outraged that the case had been settled instead of going to court, and felt that they had been betrayed by the lawyers. "Fairness Hearings" were held in five major American cities, where veterans and their families discussed their reactions to the settlement, and condemned the actions of the lawyers and courts, demanding that the case be heard before a jury of their peers. Federal Judge Julius Weinstein refused the appeals, claiming that the settlement was "fair and just". By 1989, however, the veterans fears were confirmed when it was decided how the money from the settlement would be paid out. A totally disabled Vietnam veteran would receive a maximum of $12,000 spread out over the course of 10 years. Furthermore by accepting the settlement payments, disabled veterans would become ineligible for many state benefits that provided far more monetary support than the settlement, such as food stamps, public assistance, and government pensions. A widow of a Vietnam veteran who died of Agent Orange exposure would only receive $3700.[56]

In 2004, Jill Montgomery, a spokesperson for Monsanto said that Monsanto should not be liable at all for injuries or deaths caused by Agent Orange, saying: "We are sympathetic with people who believe they have been injured and understand their concern to find the cause, but reliable scientific evidence indicates that Agent Orange is not the cause of serious long-term health effects."[57]

New Jersey Agent Orange Commission

In 1980, New Jersey created the New Jersey Agent Orange Commission, the first state commission created to study its effects. The commission's research project in association with Rutgers University was called "The Pointman Project". It was disbanded by Governor Christine Todd Whitman in 1996.[58]

During Pointman I, commission researchers devised ways to determine small dioxin levels in blood. Prior to this, such levels could only be found in the adipose (fat) tissue. The project compared dioxin levels in a small group of Vietnam veterans who had been exposed to Agent Orange with a group of matched veterans who had not served in Vietnam. The results of this project were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1988.[59]

The second phase of the project continued to examine and compare dioxin levels in various groups of Vietnam veterans including Army, Marines and brown water riverboat Navy personnel.

US Congress

In 1991, the US Congress enacted the Agent Orange Act giving the Department of Veterans Affairs the authority to declare certain conditions 'presumptive' to exposure to Agent Orange/Dioxin enabling these veterans who served in Vietnam eligible to receive treatment and compensation for these conditions.[60] The same law required the National Academy of Sciences to periodically review the science on dioxin and herbicides used in Vietnam to inform the Secretary of Veterans Affairs about the strength of the scientific evidence showing association between exposure to Agent Orange/Dioxin and certain conditions.[61]

Through this process, the list of 'presumptive' conditions has grown since 1991 and currently the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has listed prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, multiple myeloma, type II diabetes, Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, soft tissue sarcoma, chloracne, porphyria cutanea tarda, peripheral neuropathy, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and spina bifida in children of veterans exposed to Agent Orange as conditions associated with exposure to the herbicide. This list now includes B cell leukemias, such as hairy cell leukemia, Parkinson’s disease and ischemic heart disease, these last three having been added on August 31, 2010. There is currently a concern being voiced by several highly placed individuals in government about whether some of the diseases on the list should, in fact, actually have been included.[62]

U.S./Vietnamese government negotiations

File:Two Vietnameses pose in front of the billboard.jpg

Handicapped Vietnamese boy posing in front of the billboard denouncing Operation Ranch Hand.

In 2002, Vietnam and the US held a joint conference on Human Health and Environmental Impacts of Agent Orange. Following the conference the US National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences (NIEHS) began scientific exchanges between the US and Vietnam and began discussions for a joint research project on the human health impacts of Agent Orange.

These negotiations broke down in 2005 when neither side could agree on the research protocol and the research project was canceled. However, more progress has been made on the environmental front. In 2003 the first US-Vietnam workshop on remediation of dioxin was held.

Starting in 2005 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‎ (EPA) began to work with the Vietnamese government to measure the level of dioxin at the Da Nang Airbase. Also in 2005 the Joint Advisory Committee on Agent Orange made up of representatives of Vietnamese and US government agencies was established. The committee has been meeting yearly to explore areas of scientific cooperation, technical assistance and environmental remediation of dioxin.

A breakthrough in the diplomatic stalemate on this issue occurred as a result of United States President George W. Bush's state visit to Vietnam in November 2006. In the joint statement, President Bush and President Triet agreed that "further joint efforts to address the environmental contamination near former dioxin storage sites would make a valuable contribution to the continued development of their bilateral relationship.[63]

In late May 2007, President Bush signed into law a supplemental spending bill for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan that included an earmark of $3 million specifically for funding for programs for the remediation of dioxin 'hotspots' on former US military bases and for public health programs for the surrounding communities,[64] however some authors consider this to be completely inadequate, pointing out that the U.S. airbase in Danang, alone, will cost $14 million to clean up, and that three others are estimated to require $60 million for cleanup.[9] The appropriation was renewed in the fiscal year 2009 and again in FY 2010.[citation needed]

Vietnamese victims class action lawsuit in U.S. courts

On January 31, 2004, a victim's rights group, the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA), filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, against several U.S. companies for liability in causing personal injury, by developing and producing the chemical. Dow Chemical and Monsanto were the two largest producers of Agent Orange for the U.S. military and were named in the suit along with the dozens of other companies (Diamond Shamrock, Uniroyal, Thompson Chemicals, Hercules, etc.). On March 10, 2005, Judge Jack B. Weinstein of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York - who had presided over the 1984 US veterans class action lawsuit - dismissed the lawsuit ruling that there was no legal basis for the plaintiffs' claims. He concluded that Agent Orange was not considered a poison under international law at the time of its use by the U.S.; that the U.S. was not prohibited from using it as a herbicide; and that the companies which produced the substance were not liable for the method of its use by the government. The U.S. government was not a party in the lawsuit, due to sovereign immunity, and the court ruled that the chemical companies, as contractors of the US government, shared the same immunity. The case was appealed and heard by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on June 18, 2007. The Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of the case stating that the herbicides used during the war were not intended to be used to poison humans and therefore did not violate international law.[65] The US Supreme Court declined to consider the case.

Three judges on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan heard the Appeals case on June 18, 2007. They upheld Weinstein's ruling to dismiss the case. They ruled that though the herbicides contained a dioxin (a known poison) they were not intended to be used as a poison on humans. Therefore they were not considered a chemical weapon and thus not a violation of international law. A further review of the case by the whole panel of judges of the Court of Appeals also confirmed this decision. The lawyers for the Vietnamese filed a petition to the US Supreme Court to hear the case. On March 2, 2009, the Supreme Court denied certiorari and refused to reconsider the ruling of the Court of Appeals.[66]

In a November 2004 Zogby International poll of 987 people, 79% of respondents thought that the US chemical companies which produced Agent Orange defoliant should compensate US soldiers who were affected by the toxic chemical used during the war in Vietnam. However, only 51% said they supported compensation for Vietnamese Agent Orange victims.[67]

Help for those affected in Vietnam

File:A vietnamese Professor is pictured with a group of handicapped children.jpg

Group of handicapped Vietnamese children at a medical treatment facility, most of them victims of Agent Orange

In order to assist those who have been impacted by Agent Orange/Dioxin, the Vietnamese have established "Peace villages", which each host between 50 to 100 victims, giving them medical and psychological help. As of 2006, there were 11 such villages, thus granting some social protection to fewer than a thousand victims. U.S. veterans of the war in Vietnam and individuals who are aware and sympathetic to the impacts of Agent Orange have also supported these programs in Vietnam. An international group of Veterans from the U.S. and its allies during the Vietnam war working together with their former enemy — veterans from the Vietnam Veterans Association — established the Vietnam Friendship Village[68] located outside of Hanoi.

The center provides medical care, rehabilitation and vocational training for children and veterans from Vietnam who have been impacted by Agent Orange. In 1998, The Vietnam Red Cross established the Vietnam Agent Orange Victims Fund to provide direct assistance to families throughout Vietnam that have been impacted by Agent Orange. In 2003, the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA) was formed. In addition to filing the lawsuit against the chemical companies, VAVA also provides medical care, rehabilitation services and financial assistance to those impacted by Agent Orange.

The Vietnamese government provides small monthly stipends to more than 200,000 Vietnamese believed affected by the herbicides; this totaled $40.8 million in 2008 alone. The Vietnam Red Cross has raised more than $22 million to assist the ill or disabled, and several U.S. foundations, United Nations agencies, European governments and non-governmental organizations have given a total of about $23 million for site cleanup, reforestation, and health care and other services to those in need.[69]

Vuong Mo of the Vietnam News Agency described one of centers as follows[70]:

May is 13, but she knows nothing, is unable to talk fluently, nor walk with ease due to for her bandy legs. Her father is dead and she has four elder brothers, all mentally retarded ... The students are all disabled, retarded and of different ages. Teaching them is a hard job. They are of the 3rd grade but many of them find it hard to do the reading. Only a few of them can. Their pronunciation is distorted due to their twisted lips and their memory is quite short. They easily forget what they've learned ... In the Village, it is quite hard to tell the kids' exact ages. Some in their twenties have a physical statures as small as the 7- or 8-years-old. They find it difficult to feed themselves, much less have mental ability or physical capacity for work. No one can hold back the tears when seeing the heads turning round unconsciously, the bandy arms managing to push the spoon of food into the mouths with awful difficulty ... Yet they still keep smiling, singing in their great innocence, at the presence of some visitors, craving for something beautiful.

On June 16, 2010, members of the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin unveiled a comprehensive 10-year Declaration and Plan of Action to address the toxic legacy of Agent Orange and other herbicides in Vietnam. The Plan of Action was released as an Aspen Institute publication and calls upon the U.S. and Vietnamese governments to join with other governments, foundations, businesses, and nonprofits in a partnership to clean up dioxin “hot spots” in Vietnam, and to expand humanitarian services for people with disabilities in that country.[71][72][73] On September 16, 2010, Senator Patrick Leahy (D- VT) acknowledged the work of the Dialogue Group by releasing a statement on the floor of the Unites States Senate. The statement urges the U.S. government to take the Plan of Action’s recommendations into account in developing a multi-year plan of activities to address the Agent Orange/dioxin legacy.[74]

Use outside of Vietnam

While 'Agent Orange' was only used between 1962 and 1970, 2,4-D, 2,4,5-T and other herbicides were used by the US Military from the late 1940s through the 1970s.[75][76]

United States

In 1978, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suspended spraying of Agent Orange in National Forests, due to a threefold increase in miscarriages in women living near forests that had been sprayed.[77][78]

A December 2006 Department of Defense report listed Agent Orange testing, storage, and disposal sites at 32 locations throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, Thailand, Puerto Rico, Korea, and in the Pacific Ocean.[79] The Veteran Administration has also acknowledged that Agent Orange was used domestically by U.S. forces in test sites throughout the US. Eglin Air Force Base in Florida was one of the primary testing sites throughout the 1960s.[80]


Agent Orange was used in Korea in the late 1960s.[81] Republic of Korea troops were the only personnel involved in the spraying, which occurred along the demilitarized zone with North Korea. "Citing declassified U.S. Department of Defense documents, Korean officials fear thousands of its soldiers may have come into contact with the deadly defoliant in the late 1960s and early 1970s. According to one top government official, as many as '30,000 Korean veterans are suffering from illness related to their exposure'. The exact number of GIs who may have been exposed is unknown. But C. David Benbow, a North Carolina attorney who served as a sergeant with Co. C, 3rd Bn., 23rd Inf. Regt., 2nd Div., along the DMZ in 1968-69, estimates as many as '4,000 soldiers at any given time' could have been affected.".[82][unreliable source?]

In 1999, about 20,000 South Koreans filed two separated lawsuits against U.S. companies, seeking more than $5 billion in damages. After losing a decision in 2002, they filed an appeal.

In January 2006, the South Korean Appeals Court ordered Dow Chemical and Monsanto to pay $62 million in compensation to about 6,800 people. The ruling acknowledged that "the defendants failed to ensure safety as the defoliants manufactured by the defendants had higher levels of dioxins than standard", and, quoting the U.S. National Academy of Science report, declared that there was a "causal relationship" between Agent Orange and 11 diseases, including cancers of the lung, larynx and prostate. However, the judges failed to acknowledge "the relationship between the chemical and peripheral neuropathy, the disease most widespread among Agent Orange victims" according to the Mercury News.

Canadian Forces Base Gagetown (New Brunswick, Canada)

The U.S. military, with the permission of the Canadian government,[83] tested herbicides, including Agent Orange, in the forests near the Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick in 1966 and 1967. On September 12, 2007, Greg Thompson, Minister of Veterans Affairs, announced that the government of Canada was offering a one-time ex gratia payment of $20,000 as the compensation package for Agent Orange exposure at CFB Gagetown.[84]

On July 12, 2005, Merchant Law Group LLP on behalf of over 1,100 Canadian veterans and civilians who were living in and around the CFB Gagetown filed a lawsuit to pursue class action litigation concerning Agent Orange and Agent Purple with the Federal Court of Canada.[85]

On August 4, 2009, the case was rejected by the court due to lack of evidence. The ruling was appealed.[86][87]

Queensland, Australia

In 2008 Australian researcher Jean Williams claimed that cancer rates in the town of Innisfail, Queensland were 10 times higher than the state average due to secret testing of Agent Orange by the Australian military scientists during the Vietnam War. Williams, who had won the Order of Australia medal for her research on the effects of chemicals on U.S. war veterans, based her allegations on Australian government reports found in the Australian War Memorial museum archives. A former soldier, Ted Bosworth, backed up the claims, saying that he had been involved in the secret testing. However, the Queensland health department claimed that cancer rates in Innisfail were not higher than those in other parts of the state.[88]


The Brazilian government used Agent Orange to defoliate a large section of the Amazon rainforest so that Alcoa could build the Tucuruí dam to power mining operations. Large areas of rainforest were destroyed, along with the homes and livelihoods of thousands of rural peasants and indigenous tribes.[89]

Malayan Emergency

Small scale defoliation experiments using 2-4-D and 2-4-5-T were conducted by the British during the Malayan Emergency in 1951. Areas of jungle close to roadways were cleared using chemical defoliation to help prevent ambushes by Communist Terrorists.[90]

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 Hay, 1982: p. 151
  2. 2.0 2.1 Pellow, David N. Resisting Global Toxics: Transnational Movements for Environmental Justice, MIT Press, 2007, p. 159, (ISBN 0-262-16244-X).
  3. 3.0 3.1 Stellman et al. 2003: pp 681-687
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Further reading


  • (in French) L'agent orange au Viet-nam: Crime d'hier, tragédie d'aujourd'hui. Tiresias editions. 2005. ISBN 2-91523-23-6.
  • Cecil, Paul Frederick (1986). Herbicidal warfare: the Ranch Hand Project in Vietnam. Praeger. ISBN 9780275920074.
  • Đại, Lê Cao (2000). Agent Orange in the Vietnam War: History and Consequences. Vietnam Red Cross Society.
  • Gibbs, Lois Marie (1995). "Agent Orange and Vietnam Veterans". Dying From Dioxins. South End Press. pp. 14–20. ISBN 9780896085251.
  • Griffiths, Philip Jones (2004). Agent Orange: Collateral Damage in Vietnam. Alpen Editions. ISBN 978-1904563051.
  • Linedecker, Clifford; Ryan, Michael; Ryan, Maureen (1982). Kerry: Agent Orange and an American Family (1st ed.). St. Martins Press. ISBN 978-0312451127.
  • Schecter, Arnold (1994). Dioxins and health. Springer. ISBN 9780306447853.
  • Uhl, Michael; Ensign, Tod (1980). GI Guinea Pigs: How the Pentagon Exposed Our Troops to Dangers Deadlier than War (1st ed.). Playboy Press. ISBN 978-0872235694.

Journal articles / Papers

  • Weisman, Joan Murray. The Effects of Exposure to Agent Orange on the Intellectual Functioning, Academic Achievement, Visual Motor Skill, and Activity Level of the Offspring of Vietnam War Veterans. Doctoral thesis. Hofstra University. 1986.
  • Kuehn, Bridget M.; Agent Orange Effects, Journal of the American Medical Association, 2010;303(8):722.

Government/NGO reports



  • Agent Orange: The Last Battle. Dir. Stephanie Jobe, Adam Scholl. DVD. 2005

External links

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