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Agent Orange

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Agent Orange

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Vietnam. Defoliation Mission. A UH-1D helicopter from the  336th Aviation Company sprays a defoliation agent on a dense jungle area in the Mekong delta., July 26, 1969
Vietnam. Defoliation Mission. A UH-1D helicopter from the 336th Aviation Company sprays a defoliation agent on a dense jungle area in the Mekong delta., July 26, 1969

Agent Orange was the nickname given to a powerful herbicide and defoliant used by the U.S. military in its Herbicidal Warfare program during the Vietnam War. Agent Orange was used from 1961 to 1971, and was by far the most used of the so-called "rainbow herbicides" used during the program. Agent Orange (as well as Agents Purple, Pink, Blue, White, and Green) contained dioxins which are known to have caused harm to the health of those exposed during the Vietnam War. Studies of populations highly exposed to dioxin indicate increased risk of various types of cancer and genetic defects; the effect of long term low level exposure has not been established. Since the 1980s, several lawsuits have been filed against the companies who produced Agent Orange, among them being Dow Chemical and Monsanto. U.S. veterans obtained $180 million in compensation in 1984, while Australian, Canadian and New Zealand veterans also obtained compensation in an out-of-court settlement the same year. In 1999, 20,000 South Koreans filed a lawsuit in Korea; in January 2006, the Korean Appeal Court ordered Monsanto and Dow to pay $62 million in compensation to about 6,800 people. However, no Vietnamese have obtained compensation, and on March 10, 2005 Judge Jack Weinstein of Brooklyn Federal Court dismissed the lawsuit filed by the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange against the chemical companies that produced the defoliants/herbicides.

Contents

Description

Agent Orange is a roughly 1:1 mixture of two phenoxy herbicides in ester form, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T). These herbicides were developed during the 1940s by independent teams in England and the United States for use in controlling broad-leaf plants. Phenoxy agents work by mimicking a plant growth hormone, indoleacetic acid (IAA). When sprayed on broad-leaf plants they induce rapid, uncontrolled growth, eventually killing them. When sprayed on crops such as wheat or corn, it selectively kills just the broad-leaf plants in the field - the weeds - leaving the crop relatively unaffected. First introduced in 1946, these herbicides were in widespread use in agriculture by the middle of the 1950s.

It was later learned that a dioxin, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-para-dioxin (TCDD), is produced as a byproduct of the manufacture of 2,4,5-T, and was thus present in any of the herbicides that used it. 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). 2,4,5-T has since been banned for use in the US and many other countries.

The herbicide 2,4-D does not contain dioxin, and it remains one of the most-used herbicides in the world today.

Diseases associated with dioxin exposure are chloracne, soft tissue sarcomas, Hodgkin's lymphoma, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. A link has also been found to diabetes, in a study by the Institute of Medicine[1]. Diseases with limited evidence of an association with Agent Orange are respiratory cancers, prostate cancer, multiple myeloma, Porphyria cutanea tarda (a type of skin disease), acute and subacute transient peripheral neuropathy, spina bifida, Type 2 diabetes, and acute myelogenous leukemia found only in the second or third generation. Diseases with inadequate or insufficient evidence of an association are hepatobiliary cancers, nasal or nasophargyngeal cancers, bone cancer, female reproductive cancers, renal cancer, testicular cancer, leukemia, spontaneous abortion, birth defects, neonatal or infant death and stillbirths, low birth weight, childhood cancers, abnormal sperm parameters, cognitive neuropsychiatric disorders, ataxia, peripheral nervous system disorders, circulatory disorders, respiratory disorders, skin cancers, urinary and bladder cancer. Diseases with limited or suggestive evidence of no association are gastrointestinal tumors such as stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, and rectal cancer, and brain tumors. [2]

Use in South East Asia (1961-1971)

This section covers the use of all of the "rainbow" herbicides.
Cropdusting in Vietnam during Operation Ranch Hand which lasted from 1962 to 1971.
Cropdusting in Vietnam during Operation Ranch Hand which lasted from 1962 to 1971.

During the Vietnam War, the US instituted a massive herbicidal program that ran from 1961 through 1971. The aim of the program was two-fold, one to destroy the "cover" provided by the jungle-like forest, and another to deny food to the enemy. First named Operation Trail Dust, then Operation Hades, it was finally renamed Operation Ranch Hand.

A variety of chemicals were tested or used operationally during this program. The primary broad-leaf herbicides sprayed during the "testing" phase of the program between 1962 and 1964 were Agent Orange, Agent Purple and Agent White. The chemicals themselves had no color; the names refer to colored stripes painted on the 55 gallon barrels to identify their contents. Much smaller amounts of other herbicides were also tested, including Agent Pink, Agent Green, Dinoxol, Trinoxol, Bromacil, Diquat, Tandex, Monuron, Diuron and Dalapon. Agent Blue was an unrelated herbicide based primarily on arsenic used to kill rice plants which were not susceptible to the phenoxy-based agents. A variety of Paraquat-related chemicals were apparently also tested in this role. For spraying, the various agents were mixed with kerosene or diesel fuel.

By 1964 the testing phase had ended, and Agent Orange was selected as the most effective agent for "territory denial". Operational use started in January 1965, increasing in breadth as logistical problems were solved. Most of Agent Orange sprayed during the program was delivered from modified US Air Force C-123K Provider aircraft under a program known as Operation Ranch Hand. Other delivery methods included helicopters, truck and hand spraying, notably for the areas directly around US bases. From 1968 on, an improved version known as "Orange II" or "Super Orange" was used as well.

Spraying reached its maximum during the most intense period of the war, between 1967 and 1968. After that the program "drew down", and ended in 1971. By this point an estimated 19 million gallons of herbicide had been sprayed on Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos, somewhat more than half (55%) of that Agent Orange, between 1962 and 1971. Early estimates from 1974 had placed the amounts lower, between 12 and 14 million US gallons (45,000 and 53,000 m³). In total about 6 million acres (24,000 km²) were sprayed in Vietnam alone.

Effects of the program

The 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.

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 (JAMA) in 1988.(Vol. 259 No. 11, March 18, 1988).

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 addition, the Commission was the only agency to examine such levels in women who served in Vietnam.

The National Academy of Science 2003 report

An April 2003 report paid for by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that during the Vietnam War, 3,181 villages were sprayed directly with herbicides. Between 2.1 and 4.8 million people "would have been present during the spraying." Furthermore, many US citizens were given access to military records and Air Force operational folders previously not studied. The re-estimate made by the report places the volume of herbicides sprayed between 1962 and 1971 to a level 7,131,907 liters more than an uncorrected estimate published in 1974 and 9.4 million more liters than a 1974 corrected inventory. It was produced under contract for the Army by Diamond Shamrock, Dow, Hercules, Monsanto, T-H Agricultural & Nutrition, Thompson Chemicals, and Uniroyal.

The National Academy of Sciences undertook a survey of the scientific literature on the health effects of dioxin exposure, listing a number of health effects associated with significant exposure. The study is updated every two years.

The independent Institute of Medicine announced in 2006 that there appear to be no clear links to Agent Orange and cancer. They did appear to confirm a link to diabetes.[3]

New Zealand direct involvement

In 2005, the New Zealand government confirmed that it supplied Agent Orange chemicals to the United States military during the conflict. Since the early 1960s, and up until 1987, it manufactured the 2,4,5T herbicide at a plant in New Plymouth which was then shipped to U.S. military bases in South East Asia.[4][5][6]

Lawsuits

In 1984, Agent Orange manufacturers paid Australian, Canadian and New Zealand veterans in an out-of-court settlement [1].

US Vietnamese victims class action lawsuit

On January 31, 2004, a victim's rights group, the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA), filed a lawsuit in a US Federal District Court in Brooklyn, New York, against several US 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 US 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 were settled out of court - without admission of guilt by the chemical companies - in the years since the Vietnam War. In 1984, chemical companies that manufactured Agent Orange paid $180 million into a fund for United States veterans following a lawsuit.

On March 10, 2005, the District Court judge Jack Weinstein - who had defended the US 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 US; that the US was not prohibited from using it as an herbicide; and that the companies which produced the substance were not liable for the method of its use by the government. The US government is not a party in the lawsuit, claiming sovereign immunity.

On September 30, 2005, the Vietnamese victims lodged an appeal in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals; it is expected that the Court of Appeals will hold an oral argument sometime in Fall 2006. At this point the appeal is focused on whether or not the case will be reinstated and go to trial.

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 Peace villages, thus granting some social protection to fewer than a thousand victims. US veterans of the war in Vietnam, NGOs 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 US and its allies during the Vietnam war working together with their former enemy - veterans from the Vietnam Veterans Association - established the Vietnam Friendship Village[7] 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.

The US Veterans Administration 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, and spina bifida in children of veterans exposed to Agent Orange as side effects of the herbicide.

South Korean lawsuit

In 1999, about 20,000 South Koreans filed two separated lawsuits against US 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. South Koreans were the largest foreign contingent of US allies in Vietnam, contributing some 320,000 troops. They lost 5,077 soldiers and suffered 10,962 wounded, according to the Mercury News[1].

Miscellaneous

  • The Union Carbide company produced the constituents of Agent Orange at Homebush Bay in Sydney, Australia where the 2000 Summer Olympics were staged.[8]
  • The Uniroyal plant in Elmira, Ontario was one of seven suppliers producing Agent Orange for the U.S. military's use in Vietnam.
  • An international committee[2] in support of Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, has published a report on the impact of Agent Orange in Vietnam.[3][4]

Cultural references

Due to its politically sensitive nature, Agent Orange has become a common topic for reference in popular culture.

  • For example: the songs "Orange Crush" by R.E.M, Anti-Flag's "Die for your Government" and "Depleted Uranium is a War Crime", Rage Against the Machine's "Sleep Now In The Fire", Oysterhead's "Shadow of a Man"; the album Agent Orange from German thrash metal band Sodom; the song "Agent Orange" by Depeche Mode; the punk band Agent Orange. A Filipino band named Slapshock also wrote a song entitled "Agent Orange," though the lyrics have no connection to the herbicide. An American rap artist named "Cage" wrote a song entitled "Agent Orange" that sampled the theme music from Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange", but contains no reference to the herbicide.
  • On her "Boys for Pele" album, Tori Amos has an instrumental song entitled "Agent Orange".
  • The song "Uncommon Valor: A Vietnam Story" by Jedi Mind Tricks, contains the lyrics: "I escaped the war, came back/ But ain't escape Agent Orange, two of my kids born handicapped/ Spastic, quadriplegic, micro cephalic/ Cerebral palsy, cortical blindness, name it they had it"
  • In a Season One episode of The X-Files entitled 'E.B.E', a group known as the Lone Gunmen refer to shells coated in depleted uranium as 'the Agent Orange of the 90s'.
  • A South African blues musician goes by the name of Simon 'Agent' Orange.*In his stand-up routine, the British comedian Jack Dee has referred to an estate agent wearing excessive amounts of aftershave lotion as "Estate Agent Orange" because of the irritating effect on his eyes.
    In the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City a parody commercial is made advertising a product called "Agent Orange".

Further reading

  • 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.
  • Klein, Robert. Wounded Men, Broken Promises. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1981.
  • Uhl, Michael, and Tod Ensign. GI Guinea Pigs. 1st Ed. New York: Playboy Press, 1981.
  • Linedecker, Clifford, Michael Ryan, and Maureen Ryan. Kerry: Agent Orange and an American Family. New York: St. Martins Press, 1982.
  • Wilcox, Fred A. Waiting for an Army to Die. 1st ed. New York: Random House, 1983.

References

  1. ^ a b "Korea orders Agent Orange payments", Mercury News, January 26, 2006.
  2. ^ Tuoi Tre. "Int'l committee for Agent Orange victims launched", Thanh Nien, Vietnam National Youth Federation, 2005-03-10. Retrieved on 2006-06-13.
  3. ^ Bouny, André (2005-08-08). "Epandage de l’Agent Orange par l’US Army au Viêt Nam et ses conséquences (in French)". Comité International de Soutien aux victimes vietnamiennes de l’Agent Orange et au procès de New York. Retrieved on 2006-06-13.
  4. ^ Bouny, André (2006-04-12). "Spraying of Agent orange by US Army in Vietnam and its consequences". Stop United States of Aggression (Stop.USA). Retrieved on 2006-06-13.

See also

External links


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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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