What is Agent Orange?
It is a chemical compound of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T that was used in highly concentrated doses
to defoliate forests in
It is sometimes used generically
as a term for all the chemicals that the
· Sometimes it is used as a synonym for dioxin, one of the most toxic substances known to science. TCDD dioxin was an unintentional by-product of the manufacturing process of 2,4,5-T, and was present in significant amounts in Agent Orange and three other defoliants.
· In addition, Agent Orange has been called a metaphor for all the lingering
consequences of war, and for an awakening of public concern about the responsibility of science and government.
ghost” remaining from the war; his Vietnamese counterpart called it chemical warfare
· Its use has been banned by the Geneva Convention on Chemical Weapons.
What are its lingering effects today?
· For the land: Much of the land has re-grown or been reforested, though a tough, economically useless grass nicknamed “American grass” still covers some areas. As of 1990, nearly 2 ½ million acres still lay barren.
· Hot spots: A limited number of areas with high residual dioxin exist today, most notably around the perimeters of former bases where there was intensive and repeated close-range spraying, and at storage sites where spills occurred, such as the 7,500 gallon spill at the air-base in Bien Hoa. Urgent clean-up action is needed to prevent further human exposure.
· For American veterans: Ongoing studies by the U.S. Institutes of Medicine have formed the basis for compensation granted by the U.S. Department of Veterans affairs for the following diseases: soft-tissue sarcoma, Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, chloracne, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, as well as respiratory and prostate cancers, multiply myeloma, peripheral neuropathy, type 2 diabetes, and spina bifida in children of all U.S. veterans, and other birth defects in the children of women veterans.
· For Vietnamese veterans and civilians: 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.
· Other lingering consequences of war: The Vietnamese population also continues to be exposed to CS tear gas left behind in barrels that are now leaking their contents into the environment. Unexploded ordnance is another major problem: by 1998, UXO had killed 38,000 people and wounded 64,000 others since the end of the war; as of 2002, about 180 people per month continued to be wounded or killed. In addition to chemical exposure and physical injury, Vietnamese face serious problems from infectious disease, malnutrition, and other consequences of war.
What is being done today to address these consequences? (see “Ways to Help” for specific projects to support)
In 2004, three representatives of
the Agent Orange Victims Association in
· The Vietnamese Red Cross set up the Agent Orange Victims Fund in 1998.
In the 1980’s,
won what was at that time the largest out of court settlement ever awarded.
Three large international
scientific conferences have been held in
with participants from roughly 20 countries
in Europe and
What is the history of Agent Oranage?
to 1971 the
and herbicides over the southern portion of today’s
the perimeters of bases, by hand.
Roughly two-thirds of these chemicals contained dioxin. While the record of
destruction is still being compiled and corrected (see the work of Jeanne Stellman
devastated in the south, including 33% of the upland forests and 50% of the
coastal mangroves. In some provinces 50% of the land was stripped bare.
that were heavily sprayed. American and international scientists launched
investigations and called for a stop to the use of chemicals.
Why is it called
Agent Orange was a nickname derived from the orange identification stripe
painted around the 55-gallon barrels in which it was stored.
Ways to Help: Groups supporting rehabilitation and relief work (tax-deductible)
Fund for Reconciliation and Development – ffrd.org
You can choose to direct your contributions to one of three groups:
--Vietnam Agent Orange Victims Association, engaged in both support for
families, and.legal action
--Agent Orange Victims Fund of the Vietnamese Red Cross
--The Chris Jenkins Fund, which supports the work of Dr. Nguyen Viet Nhan
ogcdc.org), and families in a village near
Fund to support victims of Agent Orange, started by Prof. Ken Hermann of State
Where can I learn more?
Here is a start:
William A Buckingham Jr. Operation Ranch Hand: The Air
Force and Herbicides in Southeast
Diane Fox. “Speaking with Women in
Silence and Forgetting” in
Feminin. Les Indes Savantes, 2005.
“Chemical Politics and the Hazards of Modern Warfare: Agent Orange” in
Both articles available by e-mail request: firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter H.H. Schuck. Agent Orange on Trial.
Matsuda, Vu Duc Thao, and Amanda Piskac. “Recent Dioxin Contamination
Orange in Residents of a Southern
Occupational Environmental Medicine, vol 43 no 5:435-443. May 2001.
Jeanne Mager Stellman et al, “The
extent and patterns of usage of Agent Orange and other herbicides in
Vo Quy. “The Wounds of War:
Ceres (the FAO Review). 24:13-16. 1992 (March/April)
Arthur Westing, ed. Herbicides in War: the Long-term Ecological and Human Consequences. Taylor and Francis. 1984.
Fred Wilcox. Waiting for an Army to Die. Seven Locks Press. 1989.
Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Jr, Elmo Zumwalt III. My Father, My Son. MacMillan. 1986.
www.hatfieldgroup.com -- current dioxin contamination (Wayne Dwernychuk et al
Hatfield Consultants Group,
ehp.niehs.nih.gov/members/2003/5755 – spray routes and exposure (Jeanne Stellman
et al at
www.oneworld.net/article/archive/6297 – Victims Association court case
www.danangquangnamfund.org/ao/index.ao.html -- Fund to support victims of Agent
Documentary Videos: (contact ffrd.org for more information)
Where War Has Passed
Story from the Corner of a Park
Who we are: The Agent Orange Educational Project
of the Fund for Reconciliation and
Development, funded by a grant from Oxfam
Special thanks to Dr. Trude