Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Agent Orange Toxic Legacy Still Expanding
By Rudy Reda
Agent Orange was a deadly mixture of two dangerous herbicides known as 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T that was used by American forces during the Vietnam war. For many years millions of people in Vietnam were exposed to this deadly mixture, friendly and foe; but it was not only in Vietnam that people were being exposed. Here at home, so were many Americans.
Companies like Dow Chemical, Monsanto and Diamond Alkali were producing vast amounts of this chemical concoction at various factories around the country. These factories contaminated the areas around them, as well as locations downstream from their toxic release into rivers such as the Passaic River in New Jersey.
Although today the U.S provides medical claims for veterans who have been affected by Agent Orange, the government still dispute many claims of expose purely based on location. According to the government, the key locations for Agent Orange exposure were in Vietnam, ships in the ocean off the coast of Vietnam as well as ships conducting operations nearby, the Korean demilitarized zone, Thailand military bases, test and storage facilities all over the globe including within the U.S, and lastly airplanes which were used in Vietnam that may still have chemical residue in post-war conditions. If a person did not reside at one of these locations during the peak of Agent Orange use, the government is most likely going to argue that ailments have not been caused by Agent Orange exposure.
This lack of acceptance that there has been Agent Orange use elsewhere is causing significant amount of suffering for others who have been legitimately exposed to the deadly chemicals. One such example of this situation is with members of the Maine Army National Guard who had been sent for training in Canada. These American soldiers report that there has been the use of Agent Orange at the base in they resided at and that this usage is the cause of their illnesses, yet the American government will not accept that idea. The current governor of Maine recently signed a bill into law which calls on the federal government to investigate the situation so that these American veterans can receive disability aid for their exposure, according to the Portland Press Herald.
Today one half of this dangerous chemical, 2,4,5-T, is banned. While the other, 2,4-D, is in fact very much still in use around the United States. Even without its other half, 2,4-D is an extremely toxic and dangerous chemical. Despite this fact, the chemical companies which produced Agent Orange still wish to see an increase in the use of 2,4-D today but not on the battlefield, but on our food. With the growing use of genetically modified crops throughout this country there is a push to approve the use of 2,4-D resistant crops. The impact of this could be detrimental to not just Vietnam veterans but all Americans alike. This chemical has a high ability to leach out of the soil in which is sprayed on and into the groundwater where it can spread.
The use of Agent Orange is not a shining chapter in American history, yet it is one in which we fail to close the book on. Despite the years that have passed, we have yet to fully repay our debt to those who we have caused illness upon and have even taken an attempt to increase partial use on food despite knowing the risks involved. All that we need to do is look to the past and see the suffering that those who have been affected now face and realize that as a whole, our country has some serious work to be done to correct our errors in history.
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