Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Continuing Legacy of Agent Orange

By Lindsey de Stefan

Agent Orange was used during the Vietnam War from the early 1960s to early 1970s as a form of herbicidal warfare. The immediate goal of this chemical was to deforest many areas of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, depriving those utilizing the guerilla warfare tactic of effective hiding places. But during its decade-long use, Agent Orange had a devastating effect that the United States military could not have predicted.

Innumerable American soldiers, Vietnamese, Laotians, and others living in that part of Asia at the time were severely impacted by the unrestricted spraying of Agent Orange. A contaminant in Agent Orange, dioxin, as we now know, is extremely toxic and detrimental to the health of humans who come in contact with it. This can include but is not limited to: those who got the chemical on their skin, those who consumed food or water contaminated with the chemical, and those who breathe in the herbicide.

The effects of Agent Orange are vast, as stated in a report by the BBC in the 1990s. In children born to parents exposed to the herbicide, it can cause deformation, mental disabilities, extra fingers and toes, hernias, and cleft palate. Adults exposed to the chemical may experience cancer, nerve, skin, digestive, respiratory disorders, and even death.

The United States government has yet to truly compensate those impacted by the widespread and prolonged use to this potentially fatal chemical, particularly our own veterans. The effects are still being felt today. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, grandchildren of Vietnam War veterans can continue to experience the above listed medical problems, such as extra appendages, because of indirect Agent Orange exposure. It is a crying shame that those who served so dutifully for our country cannot receive the appropriate care and consideration they deserve from their own government.

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