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Agent Orange

  Agent Orange and "Super Orange" were the nicknames given to the herbicide and defoliant used by the United States Armed Forces 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" utilized during the program. Degradation of Agent Orange (as well as Agents Purple, Pink, and Green) released dioxins, which have caused health problems for those exposed during the Vietnam War. Agents Blue and White were part of the same program but did not contain dioxins.

Studies of populations highly exposed to dioxin, though not necessarily Agent Orange, 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 Dow Chemical, Monsanto, and Diamond Shamrock (which produced 5%[1]). U.S. veterans obtained a $180 million settlement in 1984, with most affected veterans receiving a one-time lump sum payment of $1,200. American veterans of the Vietnam War were seeking recognition of Agent Orange, compensation and treatment for maladies 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 with rare exception have their affected children received healthcare assistance from the government. Vietnam veterans and their families who brought the original Agent Orange lawsuit stated 25 years ago that the government "is just waiting for us all to die". They alleged that most of those still alive will succumb to the effects of toxic exposure over the next several years, before age 65. Elsewhere, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand veterans obtained compensation in settlements that same year. In 1999, South Korean veterans filed a lawsuit in Korea; in January 2006, the Korean Appeal Court ordered Monsanto and Dow to pay US$62 million in compensation. However, no Vietnamese have received 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.



Agent Orange, given its name from the 55 U.S. gallon orange-striped barrels it was shipped in, 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 defoliating 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 and were first introduced in the agricultural farms of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

At the time Agent Orange was sold to the U.S. government for use in Vietnam, internal memos of its manufacturers reveal it was known 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). A link to dioxin exposure has been found to diabetes, in a study by the Institute of Medicine.[2] 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.[citation needed] 2,4,5-T has since been banned for use in the U.S. and many other countries.

Although the herbicide 2,4-D does not contain dioxin, its impact on health and environment has not been thoroughly studied, and it remains one of the most-used herbicides in the world today.[citation needed]

Use outside of Vietnam

In September 2000, the Veteran Administration (VA) recognized that Agent Orange was used in Korea in the late 1960s. [1] 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 [2].

Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, New Brunswick, Canada

The U.S. 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. On September 12, 2007, Greg Thompson, Minister of Veterans Affairs, announced that the government of Canada is offering a one-time ex gratia payment of $20,000 as the compensation package for Agent Orange exposure at CFB Gagetown.[3]

Globe, Arizona

Billee Shoecraft died in 1977 of cancer. 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 twice normal size and her hair was coming out in patches. Kuron, an 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!, about her incident in 1971.

Effects of the program

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.[4]

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 in 1988.[5]

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 1984, Agent Orange manufacturers paid Australian, Canadian and New Zealand veterans in an out-of-court settlement.[6]

U.S. 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 U.S. 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 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 were settled 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, District Court Judge Jack 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.

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[3] 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 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, 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 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 News.

Canada lawsuit

In July 12, 2005, Merchant Law Group LLP on behalf of over 1,100 Canada veterans and civilians who were living in and around the CFB Gagetown filled a lawsuit to pursue Class Action Litigation concerning Agent Orange and Agent Purple to the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba. Until September 30, 2007, the case is still going.[7]


  • The Union Carbide company produced the constituents of Agent Orange at Homebush Bay in Sydney, Australia.[4]
  • 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[8] in support of Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, has published a report on the impact of Agent Orange in Vietnam.[9][10]
  • A Canadian company that researched Agent Orange contamination on behalf of the Vietnamese government has expressed 'shock' that in some areas of Vietnam, dioxin contamination is 300 to 400 times higher than the standard accepted levels.[11]
  • Agent Orange is the title of an instrumental track on Depeche Mode's 1987 album Music for the Masses

See also


  1. ^ - Ultramar Diamond Shamrock Corporation. Retrieved on 19 April 2007
  2. ^ Institute of Medicine - Veterans and Agent Orange: Herbicide/Dioxin Exposure and Type 2 Diabetes. Retrieved on 19 April 2007.
  3. ^ "People angry with Agent Orange package turn to class-action lawsuit", The Canadian Press, Sep 13, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-10-01. 
  4. ^ New York Times, 3 July 1996
  5. ^ Vol. 259 No. 11, 18 March 1988
  6. ^ "Korea orders Agent Orange payments", Mercury News, January 26, 2006. 
  7. ^ "Agent Orange Class Action", Merchant Law Group LLP. Retrieved on 2007-10-01. 
  8. ^ Tuoi Tre. "Int'l committee for Agent Orange victims launched", Thanh Nien, Vietnam National Youth Federation, 2005-03-10. Retrieved on 2006-06-13. 
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ CBC News. "Researchers 'shocked' at Agent Orange contamination in Vietnam", 2007-04-30. Retrieved on 2007-04-30. 

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.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Agent_Orange". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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