Thursday, March 4, 2010

Agent Orange: Long Lasting Effects

By Dave Ragazzo

When people think of Agent Orange, most people will think about the Vietnam War when the United States used a herbicide and defoliant contaminated with Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD) to spray the Vietnam fields and forests in its Herbicidal Warfare program. Most people believe that after Vietnam, the Agent Orange issue is over, but that is not the case. The side effects from the contaminant have affected many people who participated in the war and the people who live in Vietnam today, as the substance is still in the Vietnam environment. It is unfortunate that the United States used this substance during the war to prevent cover for Vietnamese soldiers in the heavy Vietnam terrain, but at the time they were not fully aware of how serious exposure to this would really be.

Agent Orange was a mixture of the chemicals known as 2,4,D and 2,4,5,T. After that mixture, it would be mixed with kerosene or diesel fuel before it was put into American aircrafts and sprayed across the Vietnam rainforests. Agent Orange sprayed over forty years ago is still in the ground and trees of the Vietnam forests, and because of this people who go through the worst contaminated areas are exposed to serious health risks. Not only humans are affected by this deadly spray; as later tests on animals have shown, they can get a wide variety of diseases from Agent Orange, many of which are fatal.

The effects on humans come in a wide variety of ways, from physical deformities to fatal illnesses. One of the more famous illnesses that has affected people who were exposed to Agent Orange is Parkinson’s disease, which is a common illness among Vietnam veterans exposed to the dangerous substance, according to Healthday News. Before this report, there was little to suggest that exposure to Agent Orange and Parkinson’s were linked. The illness has affected famous people such as Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali. Parkinson’s or PD is a degenerative disorder to the central nervous system, and can be classified as a movement disorder. It affects the motor skills of the infected, and has cut the lives short for many people. Many of the U.S. veterans exposed to Agent Orange have gotten this horrible disease later in life, but the Vietnamese people have seen much harsher effects from the Agent Orange exposure.

According to the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange. This exposure resulted in about 400,000 deaths during the war, and about 500,000 babies to be born with birth defects. People who live in Vietnam today also have health affects especially in the zones along the Truong Son (Long Mountains), and near the border of Vietnam and Cambodia. The people living in these areas have seen their quality of life decrease because of the Agent Orange and have seen a new string of genetic diseases that started after the war.

It is clear that Agent Orange has had a long-lasting negative effect on people who participated in the war and residents of Vietnam. The United States was doing something that they felt was the right thing to do at the time, and didn’t realize the dangers that could come from the spread of Agent Orange. It is sad to see all the effects that this substance has caused, but unfortunately these effects will continue to affect people as long as Agent Orange is in the environment.

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