Agent Orange is a herbicide and defoliant chemical, one of the
tactical use Rainbow Herbicides. It is widely known for its use by the
U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation
Ranch Hand, during the
Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. It is a
mixture of equal parts of two herbicides,
2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. In
addition to its damaging environmental effects, the chemical has
caused major health problems for many individuals who were exposed.
Up to four million people in
Vietnam were exposed to the defoliant.
The government of
Vietnam says as many as 3 million people have
suffered illnesses because of Agent Orange. The Red Cross of
Vietnam estimates that up to 1 million people are disabled or have
health problems as a result of
Agent Orange contamination. The
United States government has challenged these figures as being
unreliable. The chemical is capable of damaging genes, resulting in
deformities among the offspring of exposed victims. The U.S.
government has documented higher cases of leukemia, Hodgkin's
lymphoma, and various kinds of cancer in exposed veterans. Agent
Orange also caused enormous environmental damage in Vietnam. Over
3,100,000 hectares (31,000 km2 or 11,969 mi2) of forest were
defoliated. Defoliants eroded tree cover and seedling forest stock,
making reforestation difficult in numerous areas. Animal species
diversity sharply reduced in contrast with unsprayed areas.
The aftermath of the use of
Agent Orange in
Vietnam resulted in
massive legal consequences. The
United Nations ratified United Nations
General Assembly Resolution 31/72 and the Environmental Modification
Convention. Lawsuits filed on behalf of both US and Vietnamese
veterans sought compensation for damages.
Agent Orange was to a lesser extent used outside Vietnam. Land in
Cambodia was also sprayed with Agent Orange
Vietnam War because forests on the border with
used by the Vietcong. Some countries, such as Canada, saw testing,
while other countries, such as Brazil, used the herbicide to clear out
sections of land for agriculture.
1 Chemical composition
3 Early use
4 Use in the
5 Health effects
5.1 Vietnamese people
5.2 U.S. veterans
6 Ecological impact
7 Sociopolitical impact
8 Legal and diplomatic proceedings
8.2 U.S. veterans class action lawsuit against manufacturers
Agent Orange Commission
8.4 U.S. Congress
8.5 U.S.–Vietnamese government negotiations
8.5.1 Vietnamese victims class action lawsuit in U.S. courts
Help for those affected in Vietnam
9 Use outside Vietnam
9.8 New Zealand
9.10 Johnston Atoll
9.11 Okinawa, Japan
9.13 United States
10 Cleanup programs
11 See also
13 Further reading
13.2 Government/NGO reports
14 External links
2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D)
2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T)
The main ingredients of
Agent Orange comprise an equal 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, which contained traces of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin
The dioxin TCDD is a significant contaminant of Agent Orange. TCDD is
the most toxic of the dioxins, and is classified as a human carcinogen
by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Agent Orange dries quickly after spraying and breaks down within hours
to days when exposed to sunlight (if not bound chemically to a
biological surface such as soil, leaves and grass) and is no longer
Due to its fat-soluble nature, TCDD enters the body through physical
contact or ingestion.
Dioxin easily accumulates in the food chain.
Dioxin enters the body by attaching to a protein called the aryl
hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), a transcription factor. When TCDD binds to
AhR, the protein moves to the nucleus, where it influences gene
Several herbicides were discovered as part of efforts by the USA and
the British to develop herbicidal weapons for use during World War II.
2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid),
LN-14, and also known as trioxone), MCPA
(2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxyacetic acid, 1414B and 1414A, recoded LN-8
and LN-32), and isopropyl phenylcarbamate (1313, recoded LN-33).
In 1943, the
U.S. Department of the Army
U.S. Department of the Army contracted the botanist and
bioethicist Arthur Galston, who discovered the defoliants later used
in Agent Orange, and his employer
University of Illinois
University of Illinois at
Champaign-Urbana to study the effects of
2,4,5-T on cereal
grains (including rice) and broadleaf crops. Galston, then a
graduate student at the University of Illinois, in his research and
1943 Ph.D. dissertation focused on finding a chemical means to make
soybeans flower and fruit earlier. He discovered both that
2,3,5-triiodobenzoic acid (TIBA) would speed up the flowering of
soybeans and that in higher concentrations it would defoliate the
soybeans. 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
2,4,5-T mixtures at the
Bushnell Army Airfield
Bushnell Army Airfield in Florida. As a
result, the U.S. began a full-scale production of
2,4-D and 2,4,5-T
and would have used it against Japan in 1946 during Operation Downfall
if the war had continued.
By the end of the war, the relationship between the two countries was
well established. In the years after the war, the U.S. tested 1,100
compounds, and field trials of the more promising ones were done at
British stations in India and Australia, in order to establish their
effects in tropical conditions, as well as at the U.S.'s testing
ground in Florida.
Between 1950 and 1952, trials were conducted in Tanganyika, at Kikore
and Stunyansa, to test arboricides and defoliants under tropical
conditions. The chemicals involved were 2,4-D, 2,4,5-T, and endothall
(3,6-endoxohexahydrophthalic acid). During 1952–53, the unit
supervised the aerial spraying of
2,4,5-T over the Waturi peninsula in
Kenya to assess the value of defoliants in the eradication of tsetse
Malayan Emergency (1948–1960), Britain was the first
nation to employ the use of herbicides and defoliants to destroy
bushes, trees, and vegetation to deprive insurgents of concealment and
targeting food crops as part of a starvation campaign in the early
1950s. A detailed account of how the British experimented with the
spraying of herbicides was written by two scientists, E.K. Woodford of
Agricultural Research Council's Unit of Experimental Agronomy and
H.G.H. Kearns of the University of Bristol.
After the Malayan conflict ended in 1960, the U.S. considered the
British precedent in deciding that the use of defoliants was a legal
tactic of warfare. Secretary of State
Dean Rusk advised President John
F. Kennedy that the British had established a precedent for warfare
with herbicides in Malaya.
Use in the
Map showing locations of
U.S. Army aerial herbicide spray missions in
Vietnam taking place from 1965 to 1971.
In mid-1961, President
Ngo Dinh Diem
Ngo Dinh Diem of South
Vietnam asked the United
States to conduct aerial herbicide spraying in his country. In
August of that year, the Republic of
Vietnam Air Force conducted
herbicide operations with American help. But Diem's request launched a
policy debate in the
White House and the State and Defense
Departments. However, U.S. officials considered using it, pointing out
that the British had already used herbicides and defoliants during the
Malayan Emergency in the 1950s. In November 1961, President John F.
Kennedy authorized the start of Operation Ranch Hand, the codename for
the U.S. Air Force's herbicide program in Vietnam.
Vietnam War, between 1962 and 1971, the United States
military sprayed nearly 75,700,000 liters
(20,000,000 U.S. gal) of various chemicals – the "rainbow
herbicides" and defoliants – in Vietnam, eastern Laos, and parts of
Cambodia as part of the aerial defoliation program known as Operation
Ranch Hand, reaching its peak from 1967 to 1969. For comparison
purposes, an olympic size pool holds approximately 2,500,000 L
(660,000 U.S. gal). As the British did in
Malaya, the goal of the US was to defoliate rural/forested land,
depriving guerrillas of food and concealment and clearing sensitive
areas such as around base perimeters. 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.
Military film footage of U.S. troops spraying
Agent Orange from a
riverboat in Vietnam.
Agent Orange was usually sprayed from helicopters or from low-flying
C-123 Provider aircraft, fitted with sprayers and "MC-1 Hourglass"
pump systems and 3,800 L (1,000 U.S. gal) chemical
tanks. Spray runs were also conducted from trucks, boats, and backpack
The first batch of herbicides was unloaded at
Tan Son Nhut Air Base
Tan Son Nhut Air Base in
South Vietnam, on January 9, 1962.
U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force records show at
least 6,542 spraying missions took place over the course of Operation
Ranch Hand. By 1971, 12 percent of the total area of South Vietnam
had been sprayed with defoliating chemicals, at an average
concentration of 13 times the recommended U.S. Department of
Agriculture application rate for domestic use. In South Vietnam
alone, an estimated 10 million hectares of agricultural land was
ultimately destroyed. 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.
The campaign destroyed 20,000 square kilometres (5×10^6 acres) of
upland and mangrove forests and thousands of square kilometres of
crops. Overall, more than 20% of South Vietnam's forests were
sprayed at least once over a nine-year period.
In 1965, members of the
U.S. Congress were told "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
Military personnel were told they were destroying crops
because they were going to be used to feed guerrillas. They later
discovered 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. This contributed to widespread famine, leaving hundreds of
thousands of people malnourished or starving.
The U.S. military began targeting food crops in October 1962,
primarily using Agent Blue; 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
Many experts at the time, including Arthur Galston, 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. The U.S.
defeated most of the resolutions, arguing that Agent Orange
was not a chemical or a biological weapon as it was considered a
herbicide and a defoliant and it was used in effort to destroy plant
crops and to deprive the enemy of concealment and not meant to target
human beings. The U.S. delegation argued that a weapon, by definition,
is any device used to injure, defeat, or destroy living beings,
structures, or systems, and
Agent Orange did not qualify under that
definition. It also argued that if the U.S. were to be charged for
using Agent Orange, then Britain and its Commonwealth nations should
be charged since they also used it widely during the Malayan Emergency
in the 1950s. In 1969, Britain commented on the draft Resolution
2603 (XXIV): "The evidence seems to us to be notably inadequate for
the assertion that the use in war of chemical substances specifically
toxic to plants is prohibited by international law."
Stacks of 200 L (55 gallon) drums containing Agent Orange.
Defoliant spray run, part of Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam
War by UC-123B Provider aircraft.
U.S. Army armored personnel carrier (APC) spraying
Agent Orange over
Vietnamese rice fields during the
A UH-1D helicopter from the 336th Aviation Company sprays a
defoliation agent over farmland in the Mekong Delta.
Main article: Effects of
Agent Orange on the Vietnamese people
The government of
Vietnam says that 4 million of its citizens were
exposed to Agent Orange, and as many as 3 million have suffered
illnesses because of it; these figures include their children who were
exposed. The Red Cross of
Vietnam estimates that up to 1 million
people are disabled or have health problems due to contaminated Agent
Orange. The United States government has challenged these figures
as being unreliable.
According to a study by Dr. Nguyen Viet Nhan, children in the areas
Agent Orange was used have been affected and have multiple
health problems, including cleft palate, mental disabilities, hernias,
and extra fingers and toes. In the 1970s, high levels of
dioxin were found in the breast milk of South Vietnamese women, and in
the blood of U.S. military personnel who had served in Vietnam.
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 substandard conditions with many
genetic diseases.[page needed]
In 2006, Anh Duc Ngo and colleagues of the University of Texas Health
Science Center published a meta-analysis that exposed a large amount
of heterogeneity (different findings) between studies, a finding
consistent with a lack of consensus on the issue. Despite this,
statistical analysis of the studies they examined resulted in data
that the increase in birth defects/relative risk (RR) from exposure to
agent orange/dioxin "appears" to be on the order of 3 in
Vietnamese-funded studies, but 1.29 in the rest of the world. There is
data near the threshold of statistical significance suggesting Agent
Orange contributes to still-births, cleft palate, and neural tube
defects, with spina bifida being the most statistically significant
defect. The large discrepancy in RR between Vietnamese studies and
those in the rest of the world has been ascribed to bias in the
28 of the former U.S. military bases in
Vietnam where the herbicides
were stored and loaded onto airplanes may still have high level of
dioxins in the soil, posing a health threat to the surrounding
communities. Extensive testing for dioxin contamination has been
conducted at the former U.S. airbases in Danang,
Phù Cát District
and Biên Hòa. Some of the soil and sediment on the bases have
extremely high levels of dioxin requiring remediation. The
Da Nang Air
Base has dioxin contamination 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 and a variety of cancers in the lungs, larynx, and
Major Tự Đức Phang was exposed to dioxin-contaminated Agent
Several publications published by the Public Health Service have shown
that veterans have increased rates of cancer, and nerve, digestive,
skin, and respiratory disorders. The Center for Disease Control and
Prevention notes that in particular, there are higher rates of
Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma,
throat cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, Ischemic
heart disease, soft tissue sarcoma and liver cancer. With the
exception of liver cancer, these are the same conditions the U.S.
Veterans Administration has determined may be associated with exposure
to Agent Orange/dioxin, and are on the list of conditions eligible for
compensation and treatment.
Military personnel who were involved in storage, mixture and
transportation (including aircraft mechanics), and actual use of the
chemicals were probably among those who received the heaviest
exposures. Military members who served on
Okinawa also claim to
have been exposed to the chemical but there is no verifiable evidence
to corroborate these claims.
More recent research established that veterans exposed to Agent Orange
suffer more than twice the rate of highly aggressive prostate
cancer. Additionally, recent reports from the Institute of
Medicine of the
National Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Sciences show that Agent Orange
exposure also doubles the risk of invasive skin cancers.
While in Vietnam, the veterans were told not to worry, and were
persuaded the chemical was harmless. After returning home, Vietnam
veterans began to suspect their ill health or the instances of their
wives having miscarriages or children born with birth defects might be
Agent Orange and the other toxic herbicides to which they
had been exposed in Vietnam. Veterans began to file claims in 1977 to
the Department of Veterans Affairs for disability payments for health
care for conditions they believed were associated with exposure to
Agent Orange, or more specifically, dioxin, but their claims were
denied unless they could prove the condition began when they were in
the service or within one year of their discharge. In order to
qualify for compensation, veterans must have served on or near the
perimeters of military bases in Thailand during the
Vietnam Era, where
herbicides were tested and stored outside of Vietnam, Veterans who
were crew members on C-123 planes flown after the
Vietnam War, or were
associated with Department of Defense (DoD) projects to test, dispose
of, or store herbicides in the U.S.
By April 1993, the Department of Veterans Affairs had compensated only
486 victims, although it had received disability claims from 39,419
soldiers who had been exposed to
Agent Orange while serving in
See also: Environmental impact of war
Mangrove forests, like the top one east of Saigon, were often
destroyed by herbicides.
About 17.8 percent—3,100,000 hectares (31,000 km2;
12,000 sq mi)—of the total forested area of
sprayed during the war, which disrupted the ecological equilibrium.
The persistent nature of dioxins, erosion caused by loss of tree
cover, and loss of seedling forest stock meant that reforestation was
difficult (or impossible) in many areas. Many defoliated forest
areas were quickly invaded by aggressive pioneer species (such as
bamboo and cogon grass), making forest regeneration difficult and
unlikely. Animal-species diversity was also impacted; in one study a
Harvard biologist found 24 species of birds and five species of
mammals in a sprayed forest, while in two adjacent sections of
unsprayed forest there were 145 and 170 species of birds and 30 and 55
species of mammals.
Agent Orange have persisted in the Vietnamese environment
since the war, settling in the soil and sediment and entering the food
chain through animals and fish which feed in the contaminated areas.
The movement of dioxins through the food web has resulted in
bioconcentration and biomagnification. The areas most heavily
contaminated with dioxins are former U.S. air bases.
American policy during the
Vietnam War was to destroy crops, accepting
the sociopolitical impact that that would have. The RAND
Corporation's Memorandum 5446-ISA/ARPA states: "the fact that the VC
[the Vietcong] obtain most of their food from the neutral rural
population dictates the destruction of civilian crops ... if they
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". Crops were deliberately sprayed with Agent Orange,
areas were bulldozed clear of vegetation, and the rural population was
subjected to bombing and artillery fire. In consequence, the urban
population in South
Vietnam nearly tripled, growing 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 due to people moving to
Legal and diplomatic proceedings
The extensive environmental damage that resulted from usage of the
herbicide prompted the
United Nations to pass Resolution 31/72 and
ratify the Environmental Modification Convention. Many states do not
regard this as a complete ban on the use of herbicides and defoliants
in warfare but it does require case-by-case consideration.
In the Conference on Disarmament, Article 2(4) Protocol III of the
weaponry convention contains "The Jungle Exception", which prohibits
states from attacking forests or jungles "except if such natural
elements are used to cover, conceal or camouflage combatants or
military objectives or are military objectives themselves". This
exception voids any protection of any military and civilian personnel
from a napalm attack or something like
Agent Orange and is clear that
it was designed to cover situations like U.S. tactics in Vietnam. This
clause has yet to be revised.
U.S. 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.:6
Attorney Hy Mayerson was an early pioneer in
Agent Orange litigation,
working with 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
a physician would show so much interest in a
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. The corporate
defendants sought to escape culpability by blaming everything on the
Mayerson, with Sgt. Charles E. Hartz as their principal client, filed
the first US
Agent Orange class-action lawsuit, in
1980, for the injuries military personnel in
Vietnam suffered through
exposure to toxic dioxins in the defoliant. Attorney 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.
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 a brain tumor that began to develop while he
was a member of Tiger Force, special forces, and
Vietnam. The firm also located and supplied critical research
to the Veterans' lead expert, Dr. Codario, including about 100
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.
The chemical companies involved denied that there was a link between
Agent Orange and the veterans' medical problems. However, on May 7,
1984, seven chemical companies settled the class-action suit out of
court just hours before jury selection was to begin. The companies
agreed to pay $180 million as compensation if the veterans dropped all
claims against them. Slightly over 45% of the sum was ordered to
be paid by Monsanto alone. Many veterans who were victims of Agent
Orange exposure were outraged the case had been settled instead of
going to court, and felt 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 the case be heard before a jury of their peers. Federal
Jack B. Weinstein
Jack B. Weinstein refused the appeals, claiming the settlement
was "fair and just". By 1989, the veterans' fears were confirmed when
it was decided how the money from the settlement would be paid out. A
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.
In 2004, Monsanto spokesman Jill Montgomery said 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."
Agent Orange Commission
New Jersey created the
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
Christine Todd Whitman in 1996.
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 studied dioxin (TCDD)
levels in blood as well as in adipose tissue in a small group of
Vietnam veterans who had been exposed to
Agent Orange and compared
them to those of a matched control group; the levels were found to be
higher in the former group.
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.
In 1991, 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, making these
veterans who served in
Vietnam eligible to receive treatment and
compensation for these conditions. The same law required the
National Academy of Sciences
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. The authority for the National Academy of Sciences
reviews and addition of any new diseases to the presumptive list by
the VA is expiring in 2015 under the sunset clause of the Agent Orange
Act of 1991. 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 mellitus, 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. Several highly placed individuals in government
are voicing concerns about whether some of the diseases on the list
should, in fact, actually have been included.
In 2011, an appraisal of the 20 year long Air Force Health Study that
began in 1982 indicates that the results of the AFHS as they pertain
to Agent Orange, do not provide evidence of disease in the Ranch Hand
veterans due to "their elevated levels of exposure to Agent
The VA denied the applications of post-
Vietnam C-123 aircrew veterans
because as veterans without "boots on the ground" service in Vietnam,
they were not covered under VA's interpretation of "exposed". At the
request of the VA, the
Institute Of Medicine
Institute Of Medicine evaluated whether or not
service in these C-123 aircraft could have plausibly exposed soldiers
and been detrimental to their health. Their report "Post-Vietnam
Dioxin Exposure in Agent Orange-Contaminated C-123 Aircraft" confirmed
it. In June 2015 the
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Secretary of Veterans Affairs issued an
Interim final rule providing presumptive service connection for
Vietnam C-123 aircrews, maintenance staff and aeromedical
evacuation crews. VA now provides medical care and disability
compensation for the recognized list of
Agent Orange illnesses.
U.S.–Vietnamese government negotiations
Vietnam and the U.S. held a joint conference on Human Health
and Environmental Impacts of Agent Orange. Following the conference,
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
began scientific exchanges between the U.S. 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. More
progress has been made on the environmental front. In 2005, the first
Vietnam workshop on remediation of dioxin was held.
Starting in 2005, the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began
to work with the Vietnamese government to measure the level of dioxin
Da Nang Air Base. Also in 2005, the Joint Advisory Committee on
Agent Orange, made up of representatives of Vietnamese and U.S.
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 "further joint efforts to address the
environmental contamination near former dioxin storage sites would
make a valuable contribution to the continued development of their
On May 25, 2007, President Bush signed the U.S. Troop Readiness,
Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability
Appropriations Act, 2007 into law for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
that included an earmark of $3 million specifically for funding for
programs for the remediation of dioxin 'hotspots' on former U.S.
military bases, and for public health programs for the surrounding
communities; some authors consider this to be completely
inadequate, pointing out that the U.S. airbase in Da Nang, alone, will
cost $14 million to clean up, and that three others are estimated to
require $60 million for cleanup. The appropriation was renewed in
the fiscal year 2009 and again in FY 2010. An additional $12 million
was appropriated in the fiscal year 2010 in the Supplemental
Appropriations Act and a total of $18.5 million appropriated for
fiscal year 2011.
Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton stated during a visit to
October 2010 that the U.S. government would begin work on the clean-up
of dioxin contamination at the
Da Nang airbase.
In June 2011, a ceremony was held at
Da Nang airport to mark the start
of U.S.-funded decontamination of dioxin hotspots in Vietnam.
Thirty-two million dollars has so far been allocated by the U.S.
Congress to fund the program.
A $43 million project began in the summer of 2012, as
Vietnam and the
U.S. forge closer ties to boost trade and counter China's rising
influence in the disputed South China Sea.
Vietnamese victims class action lawsuit in U.S. courts
On January 31, 2004, a victim's rights group, the
for Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin (VAVA), filed a lawsuit in the
United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
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, and
claimed that the use of
Agent Orange violated the 1907 Hague
Convention on Land Warfare, 1925 Geneva Protocol, and the 1949 Geneva
Conventions. Dow Chemical and Monsanto were the two largest producers
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 Eastern District – who had presided over the 1984
U.S. veterans class-action lawsuit – dismissed the lawsuit, ruling
there was no legal basis for the plaintiffs' claims. He concluded
Agent Orange was not considered a poison under international law at
the time of its use by the U.S.; the U.S. was not prohibited from
using it as a herbicide; and the companies which produced the
substance were not liable for the method of its use by the
government. Weinstein used the British example to help dismiss
the claims of people exposed to
Agent Orange in their suit against the
chemical companies that had supplied it.
The Department of Defense's Advanced Research Project Agency's (ARPA)
Project AGILE was instrumental in the United States' development of
herbicides as a military weapon, an undertaking inspired by the
British use of
2,4,5-T to destroy jungle-grown crops and
bushes during the insurgency in Malaya. The United States considered
British precedent in deciding that the use of defoliants was a legally
accepted tactic of war. On November 24, 1961, Secretary of State Dean
Rusk advised President
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy that herbicide use in Vietnam
would be lawful, saying that "[t]he use of defoliant does not violate
any rule of international law concerning the conduct of chemical
warfare and is an accepted tactic of war. Precedent has been
established by the British during the emergency in Malaya in their use
of helicopters for destroying crops by chemical spraying."
George Jackson stated that "if the Americans were guilty of war crimes
Agent Orange in Vietnam, then the British would be also
guilty of war crimes as well since they were the first nation to
deploy the use of herbicides and defoliants in warfare and used them
on a large scale throughout the Malayan Emergency. Not only was there
no outcry by other states in response to Britain's use, but the U.S.
viewed it as establishing a precedent for the use of herbicides and
defoliants in jungle warfare." The U.S. government was also not a
party in the lawsuit, due to sovereign immunity, and the court ruled
the chemical companies, as contractors of the U.S. government, shared
the same immunity. The case was appealed and heard by the Second
Circuit Court of Appeals in
Manhattan on June 18, 2007. Three judges
Second Circuit Court of Appeals
Second Circuit Court of Appeals 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
U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. 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.
In a November 2004
Zogby International poll of 987 people, 79% of
respondents thought the U.S. chemical companies which produced Agent
Orange defoliant should compensate U.S. soldiers who were affected by
the toxic chemical used during the war in Vietnam. Also, 51% said they
supported compensation for Vietnamese
Agent Orange victims.
Help for those affected in Vietnam
To assist those who have been affected by Agent Orange/dioxin, the
Vietnamese have established "peace villages", which each host between
50 and 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
Vietnam and individuals who are aware and sympathetic to the
Agent Orange have supported these programs in Vietnam. An
international group of veterans from the U.S. and its allies during
Vietnam War working with their former enemy—veterans from the
Vietnam Veterans Association—established the
Village outside of Hanoi.
The center provides medical care, rehabilitation and vocational
training for children and veterans from
Vietnam who have been affected
by Agent Orange. In 1998, The
Vietnam Red Cross established the
Agent Orange Victims Fund to provide direct assistance to
Vietnam that have been affected. In 2003, the
Vietnam Association of Victims of
Agent Orange (VAVA) was formed. In
addition to filing the lawsuit against the chemical companies, VAVA
provides medical care, rehabilitation services and financial
assistance to those injured 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.
United Nations agencies, European governments and
nongovernmental organizations have given a total of about $23 million
for site cleanup, reforestation, health care and other services to
those in need.
Vuong Mo of the
Vietnam News Agency described one of the centers:
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
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 there. 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 United 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.
Use outside Vietnam
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's archives. A former
soldier, Ted Bosworth, backed up the claims, saying that he had been
involved in the secret testing. Neither Williams or Bosworth have
produced verifiable evidence to support their claims. The Queensland
health department determined that cancer rates in Innisfail were no
higher than those in other parts of the state.
The Brazilian government in the late 1960s used herbicides to
defoliate a large section of the
Amazon rainforest so that
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.
Agent Orange was used as a defoliant in eastern
Cambodia during the
Vietnam War, but its impacts are difficult to assess due to the chaos
caused by the
Khmer Rouge regime.
The U.S. military, with the permission of the Canadian government,
tested herbicides, including Agent Orange, in the forests near the
Canadian Forces Base Gagetown
Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick. In 2007, the
Canada offered a one-time ex gratia payment of $20,000
as compensation for
Agent Orange exposure at CFB Gagetown. 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
Agent Purple with the Federal Court of Canada. On
August 4, 2009, the case was rejected by the court due to lack of
evidence. The ruling was appealed. In 2007, the Canadian
government announced that a research and fact-finding program
initiated in 2005 had found the base was safe.
On February 17, 2011, the
Toronto Star revealed that
Agent Orange was
employed to clear extensive plots of
Crown land in Northern
Toronto Star reported that, "records from the 1950s,
1960s and 1970s show forestry workers, often students and junior
rangers, spent weeks at a time as human markers holding red,
helium-filled balloons on fishing lines while low-flying planes
sprayed toxic herbicides including an infamous chemical mixture known
Agent Orange on the brush and the boys below." In response to
Toronto Star article, the Ontario provincial government launched a
probe into the use of Agent Orange.
An analysis of chemicals present in the island's soil, together with
resolutions passed by Guam's legislature, suggest that Agent Orange
was among the herbicides routinely used on and around military bases
Anderson Air Force Base, Naval Air Station Agana, Guam. Despite the
evidence, the Department of Defense continues to deny that Agent
Orange was ever stored or used on Guam. Several
Guam veterans have
collected an enormous amount of evidence to assist in their disability
claims for direct exposure to dioxin containing herbicides such as
2,4,5-T which are similar to the illness associations and disability
coverage that has become standard for those who were harmed by the
same chemical contaminant of
Agent Orange used in Vietnam.
Agent Orange was used in Korea in the late 1960s.
The United States local press KPHO-TV in Phoenix, Arizona, alleged (in
2011) that the
United States Army
United States Army had in 1978 buried 250 drums of
Agent Orange in Camp Carroll, the
U.S. Army base in Gyeongsangbuk-do,
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"
Agent Orange and a range of diseases, including several
cancers. The judges failed to acknowledge "the relationship between
the chemical and peripheral neuropathy, the disease most widespread
Agent Orange victims".
Currently, veterans who provide evidence meeting VA requirements for
service in Vietnam, and who can medically establish that anytime after
this 'presumptive exposure' they developed any medical problems on the
list of presumptive diseases, may receive compensation from the VA.
Certain veterans who served in Korea and are able to prove they were
assigned to certain specified around the DMZ during a specific time
frame are afforded similar presumption.
Laos were sprayed with
Agent Orange during the Vietnam
The Ivon Watkins-Dow factory in New Plymouth, New Zealand
The use of
Agent Orange has been controversial in New Zealand, because
of the exposure of New Zealand troops in
Vietnam and because of the
Agent Orange for
Vietnam and other users at an Ivon
Watkins-Dow chemical plant in Paritutu, New Plymouth. There have been
continuing claims, as yet unproven, that the suburb of Paritutu has
also been polluted; see New Zealand in the
Vietnam War. There are
cases of New Zealand soldiers developing cancers such as bone cancer
but none has been scientifically connected to exposure to
Herbicide persistence studies of Agents Orange and White were
conducted in the Philippines.
Agent Orange barrels at
Johnston Atoll circa 1973.
Agent Orange barrels at Johnston Atoll, circa 1976.
U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force operation to remove
Herbicide Orange from Vietnam
in 1972 was named Operation Pacer IVY, while the operation to destroy
Agent Orange stored at
Johnston Atoll in 1977 was named Operation
Operation Pacer IVY (InVentorY) collected
Agent Orange in
Vietnam and removed it in 1972 aboard the ship
MV Transpacific for storage on Johnston Atoll. The
Environmental Protection Agency
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that 6,800,000 L
(1,800,000 U.S. gal) of
Herbicide Orange was stored at
Johnston Island in the Pacific and 1,800,000 L
(480,000 U.S. gal) at Gulfport in Mississippi.
Research and studies were initiated to find a safe method to destroy
the materials and it was discovered they could be incinerated safely
under special conditions of temperature and dwell time. However,
these herbicides were expensive and the Air Force wanted to resell its
surplus instead of dumping it at sea. Among many methods tested,
a possibility of salvaging the herbicides by reprocessing and
filtering out the
contaminant with carbonized (charcoaled) coconut fibers. This concept
was then tested in 1976 and a pilot plant constructed at
From July to September 1977 during
Operation Pacer HO
Operation Pacer HO (Herbicide
Orange), the entire stock of
Agent Orange from both
storage sites at Gulfport and
Johnston Atoll was subsequently
incinerated in four separate burns in the vicinity of Johnson Island
aboard the Dutch-owned waste incineration ship MT Vulcanus.
As of 2004, some records of the storage and disposition of Agent
Johnston Atoll have been associated with the historical
records of Operation Red Hat.
There have been dozens of reports in the press about use and/or
storage of military formulated herbicides on
Okinawa that are based
upon statements by former U.S. service members that had been stationed
on the island, photographs, government records, and unearthed storage
U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has denied these
allegations with statements by military officials and spokespersons,
as well as a January 2013 report authored by Dr. Alvin Young that was
released in April 2013.
A scientific study of the effects military contamination at Johnston
Atoll included a statement confirming records of
Agent Orange storage
In particular, the 2013 report refuted articles written by journalist
Jon Mitchell as well as a statement from "An Ecological Assessment of
Johnston Atoll"[permanent dead link] a 2003 publication produced by
United States Army
United States Army Chemical Materials Agency that states, "in
U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force also brought about 25,000 200L drums of the
Herbicide Orange (HO) to Johnston Island that originated
Vietnam and was stored on Okinawa." The 2013 report stated:
"The authors of the  report were not DoD employees, nor were
they likely familiar with the issues surrounding
Herbicide Orange or
its actual history of transport to the Island." and detailed the
transport phases and routes of
Agent Orange from
Vietnam to Johnston
Atoll, none of which included Okinawa.
U.S. Army 1971 Fort Detrick report describes Tactical
Herbicide stockpiles of U.S. Government restricted materials on
Okinawa at Kadena AFB, in Thailand, and Vietnam.
Further official confirmation of restricted (dioxin containing)
herbicide storage on
Okinawa appeared in a 1971 Fort Detrick report
titled "Historical, Logistical, Political and Technical Aspects of the
Defoliant Program", which mentioned that the environmental
statement should consider "
Herbicide stockpiles elsewhere in PACOM
(Pacific Command) U.S. Government restricted materials Thailand and
Okinawa (Kadena AFB)." The 2013 DoD report says that the
environmental statement urged by the 1971 report was published in 1974
as "The Department of Air Force Final Environmental Statement", and
that the latter did not find
Agent Orange was held in either Thailand
Agent Orange was tested by the United States in Thailand during the
war in Southeast Asia. Buried drums were uncovered and confirmed to be
Agent Orange in 1999. Workers who uncovered the drums fell ill
while upgrading the airport near Hua Hin District, 100 km south
Vietnam-era Veterans whose service involved duty on or near the
perimeters of military bases in Thailand anytime between February 28,
1961, and May 7, 1975, may have been exposed to herbicides and may
qualify for VA benefits.
A declassified Department of Defense report written in 1973, suggests
that there was a significant use of herbicides on the fenced-in
perimeters of military bases in Thailand to remove foliage that
provided cover for enemy forces.
In 2013, VA determined that herbicides used on the Thailand base
perimeters may have been tactical and procured from Vietnam, or a
strong, commercial type resembling tactical herbicides.
University of Hawaii
University of Hawaii has acknowledged extensive testing of Agent
Orange on behalf of the
United States Department of Defense
United States Department of Defense in Hawaii
along with mixtures of
Agent Orange on Kaua'i Island in 1967–68 and
on Hawaii Island in 1966; testing and storage in other U.S. locations
has been documented by the United States Department of Veterans
In 1971, the C-123 aircraft used for spraying
Agent Orange were
returned to the United States and assigned various East Coast USAF
Reserve squadrons, and then employed in traditional airlift missions
between 1972 and 1982. In 1994, testing by the Air Force identified
some former spray aircraft as "heavily contaminated" with dioxin
residue. Inquiries by aircrew veterans in 2011 brought a decision by
the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs opining that not enough dioxin
residue remained to injure these post-
Vietnam War veterans. On 26
January 2012, the U.S. Center For Disease Control's Agency for Toxic
Substances and Disease Registry challenged this with their finding
that former spray aircraft were indeed contaminated and the aircrews
exposed to harmful levels of dioxin. In response to veterans'
concerns, the VA in February 2014 referred the C-123 issue to the
Institute of Medicine for a special study, with results released on
January 9, 2015.
In 1978, the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suspended spraying
Agent Orange in National Forests.
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. The Veteran Administration has also
Agent Orange was used domestically by U.S. forces in
test sites throughout the United States.
Eglin Air Force Base
Eglin Air Force Base in
Florida was one of the primary testing sites throughout the
In February 2012, Monsanto agreed to settle a case covering Dioxin
contamination around a plant in Nitro, West Virginia, that had
manufactured Agent Orange. Monsanto agreed to pay up to $9 million for
cleanup of affected homes, $84 million for medical monitoring of
people affected, and the community's legal fees.
On 9 August 2012, the United States and
Vietnam began a cooperative
cleaning up of the toxic chemical on part of
Airport, marking the first time Washington has been involved in
Agent Orange in Vietnam.
Danang was the primary storage
site of the chemical. Two other cleanup sites the United States and
Vietnam are looking at is Biên Hòa, in the southern province of
Đồng Nai—a "hotspot" for dioxin—and
Phù Cát airport in the
central province of Bình Định, says U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam
David Shear. According to the Vietnamese newspaper Nhân Dân, the
U.S. government provided $41 million to the project, which will reduce
the contamination level in 73,000 cubic meters of soil by late
2016. Some 45,000 cubic meters were "cleaned", an equal amount
began in October 2016 scheduled for completion in mid 2017.
Due to the fact that destruction requires high temperatures (over 1000
°C), the destruction process is energy intensive.
Environmental impact of war
Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Agent Orange.
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