is the code
for a herbicide
used by the U.S. military
in its Herbicidal Warfare
program during the
According to the post-war Vietnamese government, 4.8 million
were exposed to
Agent Orange, resulting in 400,000 deaths and disabilities, and
500,000 children born with birth
.The Globe and Mail, June 12, 2008. 'Last Ghost of the Vietnam War'
From 1961 to 1971, Agent Orange was by far the most widely used of
the so-called "Rainbow
" employed in the herbicidal warfare
program. During the
production of Agent Orange (as well as Agents Purple
were produced as a
contaminant, which have caused health problems for those exposed
during the Vietnam War. Agents Blue
were part of the same program but
did not contain dioxins.
The earliest form of the compound triiodobenzoic acid
was studied by
as a plant growth
hormone. The research was motivated by the desire to adapt soybeans
for short growing season. Arthur Galston is
widely known for the social impact his work had on science. This
defoliant was modeled after Galston’s discovery of triiodobenzoic
acid in 1943. Galston was especially concerned about the compound’s
side effects to humans and the environment.
Galston found that excessive usage of the compound caused
catastrophic defoliation - a finding used by his colleague Ian
Sussex to develop a family of herbicides (Galston later campaigned
against its use in Vietnam). These herbicides were developed during the
1940s by independent teams in England and the
United States for use in controlling broad-leaf
Phenoxyl agents work by mimicking a plant growth hormone
, indoleacetic acid
(IAA). When sprayed on
broad-leaf plants they induce rapid, uncontrolled growth,
eventually defoliating them. When sprayed on crops such as wheat
, it selectively
kills only the broad-leaf weeds in the field, leaving the crop
relatively unaffected. First introduced in 1946 in the agricultural
farms of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, these
herbicides were in widespread use in agriculture by the middle of the
Agent Orange was given its name from the color of the
orange-striped barrels it was shipped in. It is a roughly 1:1
mixture of two phenoxyl
in iso-octyl ester
(2,4-D) and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic
Internal memos from the companies that manufactured it reveal that
at the time Agent Orange was sold to the U.S. government for use in
Vietnam it was known that it contained a dioxin, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin
(TCDD), a by-product of the manufacture 2,4,5-T. The National
Toxicology Program has classified TCDD to be a human carcinogen
, frequently associated with soft-tissue sarcoma
, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
, Hodgkin's disease
and chronic lymphocytic leukemia
(CLL). In a study by the Institute
, a link has been found between dioxin exposure and
Three studies have suggested an increase in the risk of acute myelogenous leukemia
children of Vietnam veterans, which might be associated with
exposure to Agent Orange. A variety of other conditions have been
suggested to be linked to exposure, but studies have failed to
confirm a link with these diseases. Just of TCDD was released in the Seveso disaster causing widespread effects on people and
Use in the Vietnam War
Vietnamese woman born with deformed
face as a result of exposure to Agent Orange.
Group of handicapped children, most
of them victims of Agent Orange
During the Vietnam war, between 1962 and 1971, the United States
military sprayed of chemical defoliants in South Vietnam as part of
a defoliant program. 20 percent of South Vietnam's jungles were
sprayed over a nine year period. The first objective was to reduce
the dense jungle foliage so that Communist forces might not use it
for cover and to deny them use of crops needed for sustenance. In
1965, 42 percent of all herbicide spraying was dedicated to food
crops. The second objective was spot clearing in sensitive areas
such as around base perimeters. It was also used to drive civilians
In 1963, the United States (suspecting the negative effects)
initiated a study on the health effects of Agent Orange that by
1967 confirmed that the chemical caused cancer, birth defects and
other serious health problems. The outcome of the study had no
effect whatsoever on the use of Agent Orange.
Effects on health
According to Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4.8 million
Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, resulting in
400,000 deaths and disabilities, and 500,000 children born with
birth defects. 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.
The use of Agent Orange still has an effect on the citizens of
Vietnam, poisoning their food chain and creating concern about its
effect on human beings. This chemical has been reported to cause
serious skin diseases as well as a vast variety of cancers in the
lungs, larynx, and prostate. 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
Perception and information
Until the 21st century much of the data on the effects of Agent
Orange in Vietnam, was compiled by Vietnamese scientists in Vietnam
and largely unavailable to the worldwide English reader. However,
general public perception in Vietnam is that the effects are severe
and clearly visible in children of veterans and people in affected
areas. Veterans have become increasingly concerned about the
effects of Agent Orange to humans. While in Vietnam, the veterans
were told not to worry, and were persuaded that the chemical was
harmless. In the last few years, this opinion has changed, and
studies show the true effects Agent Orange has on humans.
For more than a decade The Hatfield Group from Vancouver, Canada
has been researching the long-term environmental effects of Agent
Orange. Their extensive research has found that in the areas that
were sprayed by Agent Orange during the war, no longer contain
measurable amounts of dioxin and do not pose a health threat.
However, many 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. These 'Dioxin Hotspots' still pose a
health threat to the surrounding communities. The airbases in Bien
Hoa, Da Nang and Phu Cat have been put on a priority list for
clean-up or containment by the Vietnamese government.
Acknowledgement by the U.S. Government
Until recently, the US government has not addressed the effects of
Agent Orange in Vietnam. 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
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
Starting in 2005 the U.S.
(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.
Some talking without any breakthrough came as a result of President
George W. Bush's state visit to Vietnam in November 2006. In the
joint statement between President Bush and President Triet
regarding the visit further
cooperation on long-term environmental and human health impacts of
Vietnam War era dioxin was raised.
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.
Use outside of Vietnam
Agent Orange was also widely used by the US Military from the late
1940s through the 1970s.
In December 2006 a report titled "The History of the US Department
of Defense Programs for the Testing, Evaluation, and Storage of
Tactical Herbicides," Submitted by Alvin L. Young, Ph. D., for
Under Secretary of Defense William Van Houten listed Agent Orange
test sites at Fort Gordon (Augusta, Georgia), Fort Chaffee (Fort
Smith, Arkansas) and Apalachicola National Forest (Sopchoppy,
In September 2000, the Veteran Administration (VA) recognized that
Agent Orange was used in Korea in the late 1960s. Republic of Korea troops are reported to have done the spraying,
which occurred along the demilitarized zone with North Korea.
The VA has also acknowledged that Agent
Orange was used domestically by U.S. forces.
Canadian Forces Base Gagetown (New Brunswick, Canada)
military, with the permission of the Canadian government, secretly
tested many unregistered U.S. military herbicides, including Agent
Orange, in the forests near the Canadian Forces
Base Gagetown in New Brunswick in 1966 and 1967.
September 12, 2007, Greg Thompson
Minister of Veterans
, 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
Globe (Arizona, United States)
Billee Shoecraft died of cancer in 1977. She began suffering from
cancer after a helicopter sprayed her with the defoliant Kuron.
Before her death, Shoecraft wrote a book about her experience in
which she said that after she was sprayed her eyes were nearly
swollen shut, her arms and legs were swollen to twice their normal
size and her hair was falling out in patches. Kuron, a herbicide
related to Agent Orange, was sprayed by the U.S. Forest Service to thin
foliage and increase water runoff in the Pinal Mountains of the
Tonto National Forest near Globe, Arizona, in 1968 and 1969.
Dow Chemical Company and
the U.S. Forest Service paid an undisclosed sum to five families.
Shoecraft wrote a book entitled, Sue the Bastards!
her incident in 1971.
Innisfail (Queensland, Australia)
speculated that the Australian military tested Agent Orange on
Innisfail, a small town in northern Queensland, between 1964 and 1966.
the Australian War
Memorial archives showed the chemicals 2,4-D, Diquat, Tordon
and dimethyl sulphoxide (DMSO)
were sprayed on the rainforest in the Gregory Falls area in June
1966, as part of a wider chemical weapons test program dubbed
These claims were made by Jean Williams,
who was given the Order of
for her work concerning Vietnam War veterans.
She claimed she found evidence pertaining to the use of toxic
herbicide, but that evidence was missing from archives. Anna Bligh,
the Queensland Premier stated that the government would investigate
thoroughly the supposed tests in the forest.
These claims have since been proved false by a Defence Science and
investigation. They found that there
was a small-scale defoliation trial conducted in the Gregory Falls
area near Innisfail in 1966 but it did not involve Agent Orange.
Claims the cancer rate was 10 times as high in Innisfail were also
proved to be untrue by Queensland
, who have stated it was caused by media
After a veteran contracted a disease as a result of exposure to
Agent Orange, the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans
concluded that toxic herbicides have been used in Guam. During the
Vietnam War, Guam was used as a storage facility for Agent Orange.
A CBS News report on June 12, 2005, said Agent Orange was sprayed
on Guam from 1955 to the 1960s, and in the Panama Canal Zone from
the 1960s to sometime in the 1970s.
Brazilian government used Agent Orange to defoliate a large section
of the Amazon rainforest so that
the multinational corporation 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.
Effects of the program
New Jersey Agent Orange Commission
Jersey created the New Jersey Agent Orange Commission, the
first state commission created to study its effects.
commission's research project in association with Rutgers
University was called "The Pointman Project".
disbanded by Governor Christine
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 tissue
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
The second phase of the project continued to examine and compare
dioxin levels in various groups of Vietnam veterans including
and brown water riverboat Navy
Since at least 1978, several lawsuits have been filed against the
companies which produced Agent Orange, among them Dow Chemical
, and Diamond Shamrock
(which produced 5%). U.S.
veterans obtained a $180 million settlement in 1984, with most
affected veterans receiving a one-time lump sum payment of $1,200.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, shortly after the
Vietnam War veterans reported various health complications which
can be traced to exposure to the chemical Agent Orange.
In 1991, the US Congress enacted the Agent Orange Act
giving the Department of Veterans
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. 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
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. As of October
2009, this list includes B cell leukemias, such as hairy cell
leukemia, Parkinson’s disease and ischemic heart disease.
veterans of the Vietnam war were seeking recognition of Agent Orange syndrome, compensation
and treatment for diseases that they and their children suffered
from; many exposed to Agent Orange have not been able to receive
promised medical care through the Veterans Administration medical system, and only in exceptional cases have
their affected children received health care assistance from the
Vietnam veterans and their families who brought the original Agent
Orange lawsuit 25 years ago alleged that the government "is just
waiting for us all to die" . They alleged that most of those still
alive would succumb to the effects of toxic exposure before the age
On behalf of Vietnam War allies
Australia, Canada and New Zealand, veterans obtained compensation in settlements that
same year. In 1999, South Korean veterans filed a lawsuit in the Korean
In January 2006, the Korean Appeal Court ordered
Monsanto and Dow to pay US$
million in compensation. However, no Vietnamese have received
compensation, and on March 10, 2005, Judge Jack B. Weinstein
United States District Court for the Eastern District of New
dismissed the lawsuit filed by the Vietnamese victims of
Agent Orange against the chemical companies which produced the
defoliants and herbicides.
The case was appealed and heard by the Second Circuit Court of
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. The lawyers for the Vietnamese have
petitioned the US
Supreme Court to consider the case.
U.S. Vietnamese victims class action lawsuit
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
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.). A number
of lawsuits by American GIs
out of court - without admission of liability by the chemical
companies - in the years since the Vietnam War. In 1984, some
chemical companies that manufactured Agent Orange paid $180 million
into a fund for United States veterans following a lawsuit.
On March 10, 2005, Judge Jack B. Weinstein - who had defended the
U.S. veterans victims of Agent Orange - dismissed the suit, ruling
that there was no legal basis for the plaintiffs'
claims. The judge 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 is not a party in the lawsuit, claiming sovereign immunity
Three judges on the Second Circuit Court of
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 have filed a petition to the US Supreme
Court to hear the case. On March 2, 2009, the Supreme Court denied
and refused to reconsider the
ruling of the Court of Appeals.
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 located outside of
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.
South Korean lawsuit
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
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.
On August 4, 2009, the case was thrown out of court due to lack of evidence
. The ruling is being
The was not thrown out of court as indicated above but was The
lawsuit initiated by the firm Barry Spalding Lawyers, and not the
class action lawsuit by the Merchant Law Group that was dismissed
from the New Brunswick Court of Queen's Bench. The Merchant Law
Group is still fighting its case in court cases in numerous
Merchant's client is Alison Patricia (born in Oromocto, New
Brunswick, Canada) where agent orange was sprayed in 1966 and
Alison suffered severe neurodevelopmental birth defects
as a result. Alison is the case
history in a newly published book,
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