By Vanessa Camargo
From 1962 to 1971, during the Vietnam War, the U.S. military sprayed millions of gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides on trees and plant life in Vietnam. Agent Orange is a mixture of tactical herbicides. The military did this to remove trees and dense tropical plants that would supply enemy coverage. It is estimated that about 19 million gallons of rainbow herbicide mixtures were sprayed, otherwise known as Agent Orange. The name originated from the orange stripe on the 55-gallon drums where it was stored.
The most polluted areas were forests near the demarcation zone, forests along the borders of Cambodia, Laos, and South Vietnam, and Vietnam’s southern peninsula mangroves and near shipping channels to Saigon.
The U.S. Department of Defense purchased herbicides that were developed specifically to be used in combat operations. Herbicides were also used, tested, and stored in areas outside of Vietnam.
A highly toxic substance called dioxin is found in Agent Orange and other herbicides. Research suggests that the chemical can be associated with several cancers and other health-related defects. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and other federal agencies continue to perform extensive studies evaluating the health effects Agent Orange exposure has had on U.S. veterans. Chances of Vietnam veterans of having hepatitis C, for instance, are much higher than any other veteran.
The VA predicts that specific diseases can be connected to a veteran’s military service. They are called presumptive diseases. The VA has recognized certain cancers and other health problems were caused by exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service. Due to these diseases, Veterans and survivors could be eligible for disability compensation or survivors’ benefits.
The VA has conducted a study called the Army Chemical Corps Vietnam-Era Veterans Health Study. This new study consists of 4,000 veterans who served in the U.S. Army Chemical Corps between the years1965 to 1973. The VA is are trying to determine if their high blood pressure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was caused by exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
The VA also believes that specific births defects in children are related to veterans' military service.
Veterans are eligible for disability compensations for injuries or diseases related to active military service. This means that they are granted a monthly monetary allowance. Veterans who served in Vietnam during the war do not need to prove that they were exposed to Agent Orange to qualify for the disability compensation Although, a veteran who believes he/she has a disease caused by exposure to herbicides that are not presumptive diseases must have proof that there is a connection between the disease and the herbicide exposure during their military service.