Sunday, April 28, 2013

Decades After the War, Cleanup has Begun in Vietnam

By Jamie Bachar

Agent Orange was  used in the Vietnam War to kill plants and trees, instead it poisoned millions of people.

This past August, the United States started its clean up of residue of the chemical compound code named Agent Orange, more than 50 years after the spraying campaign began.  The cleanup at the former US air base in DaNang will cost an estimated $43 million and is expected to finish in 2014, according to

The use of the chemical by the U.S. military in Southeast Asia between 1961 and 1971 devastated large patches of Vietnam. As many as one million people in Vietnam have disabilities or other health problems associated with Agent Orange, according to Vietnamese Red Cross estimations.

Agent Orange has been an issue between Vietnam and the United States since the war because a contaminant in the herbicide mixture, dioxin, can linger in the environment for decades, entering the food supply.

In 2004, a group of Vietnamese citizens filed a lawsuit against companies that produced the toxic chemical but the case was dismissed, according to the Huffington Post. In the past, Washington took a defensive position on Agent Orange because no one had ever determined how much dioxin remains in Vietnam’s soil.

Congress set aside about $49 million for environmental remediation and about $11 million to help people living with disabilities in Vietnam  regardless of cause, the Huffington Post reported.

Meanwhile, 2.6 million U.S. military personnel are believe to have been exposed to the chemical and are still suffering from ailments today from their exposure, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs, reports

Hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans are still alive and eligible for treatment for Agent Orange related illnesses. The Department of Veteran Affairs has compiled a list of health problems that could be associated with exposure to the chemical, including, cancer, Parkinson’s and some heart disease.

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