Agent Orange, a deadly mixture of the chemicals 2, 4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid and 2, 4, 5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid, was used in the Vietnam war to instantly destroy vegetation in order to cripple the Vietcong by exposing their hideouts and shelters (Wilcox 27). However, the U.S. didn't know how harmful the chemical actually was. They didn't know at the time, but Agent Orange contains dioxins, which are very dangerous to not only plants but also humans and other mammals. Exposure to dioxins multiplies the chances of cancers, immune system disorders, liver problems and other complications. The U.S. dropped approximately 11 million gallons over about 10 percent of southern Vietnam (Deneslow). The U.S. used the mixture freely and thought nothing of it or its consequences.
When it was discovered in 1971 that Agent Orange contained the most dangerous form of dioxin, TCDD, and caused cancer in rats, the spraying in Vietnam was stopped (Deneslow). The problems that the past spraying's of Agent Orange create in today's Vietnam are atrocious and are on the rise. One of the primary problems in Vietnam due to the use of Agent Orange is that a significant number of South Vietnamese children that were born since the Vietnam war are born retarded, with deformations and with other health problems, including cancers. Some studies also show that exposure to Agent Orange is linked to adult-onset diabetes and leukemia. The Vietnamese children are born with too many fingers, lack of limbs, and even two rows of teeth to name a few of the problems. In a recent study, Dr. Nguyen concluded that children who live in the areas that were sprayed are "three times more likely to have cleft palates, three times more likely to be mentally retarded, three times more likely to have extra fingers or toes, and about eight times more likely to suffer hernias.
(Deneslow) " Many others, including U.S. veterans, complain about headaches, numbness, frequent fatigue, and lack of muscular power, all due to Agent Orange exposure, which will probably lead to other, greater problems. The U.S. government offers compensation to those Veterans who were exposed to the chemical, but yet the U.S. denies that there is a link between the health problems and Agent Orange, stating that it is just propaganda and that there isn't enough research to find a link between the two (Wilcox 114). Vu Trong Huong, director War Crimes Investigation in Vietnam says "We have over 50,000 children that have been born with horrific deformities; the link is clear". The damage of the deadly chemical doesn't just involve people, it also involves the foliage and wildlife of Vietnam. The use of Agent Orange throughout the conflict in Vietnam greatly affects the ecosystem of the country today. During the war, the defoliant destroyed a lot of the forests and had serious effects on the animal population of Vietnam.
Areas of thick brush and trees now simply look like flat plains, and the forestry won't grow back for decades. Animals were poisoned, mainly ones in the bottom of the food chain, and they pass the poison to animals that eat them. Now many animals have birth defects and high death rate due to the Agent Orange poisoning. The chemical also contaminated many water supplies such as lakes and rivers and now renders them useless (Hatfield Group). A lot of work must be done to get the wildlife of Vietnam back to its pre-war state. Much has to be done about the problems that the U.S. caused by using Agent Orange in the Vietnam war.
Organizations like the Green Cross front the campaign to get Vietnam back to the way that it used to be. (Green Cross International) It seems that the U.S. won't do what it rightfully should until sufficient evidence, in their minds, arises, so the burden is up to the Vietnamese. The long list of diseases, defects, and complications continues to grow and won't stop until something is done.
Wilcox, Fred A. Waiting for an Army to Die: The Tragedy of Agent Orange. Cabin John, MD. Seven Locks Press. 1999.
Deneslow, Robin. "Agent Orange Blights Vietnam" BBC News. 3 Dec. 1998.
7 June 2003.
Green Cross International. "The Green Cross 'Agent Orange' Campaign" 9 Dec. 2002.
8 June 2003.
Hatfield Group. "Studying the Effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam " 1998.