Agent orange in the Vietnam warVietnam1961 to 1971
form of distructionsprayed areadefoliant area
war, defoliant76,000 m³ 20,000 km²
Agent Orange is an herbicide and defoliant chemical, one of the "tactical use" Rainbow Herbicides. It is widely known for its use by the U.S. military as part of its chemical warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. It is a mixture of equal parts of two herbicides, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. In addition to its damaging environmental effects, traces of dioxin (mainly TCDD, the most toxic of its type) found in the mixture have caused major health problems for many individuals who were exposed.
Up to four million people in Vietnam were exposed to the defoliant. The government of Vietnam says as many as three million people have suffered illness because of Agent Orange, and the Red Cross of Vietnam estimates that up to one million people are disabled or have health problems as a result of Agent Orange contamination. The United States government has described these figures as unreliable, while documenting higher cases of leukemia, Hodgkin's lymphoma, and various kinds of cancer in exposed US military veterans. An epidemiological study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that there was an increase in the rate of birth defects of the children of military personnel as a result of Agent Orange. Agent Orange has also caused enormous environmental damage in Vietnam. Over 3,100,000 hectares (31,000 km2 or 11,969 mi2) of forest were defoliated. Defoliants eroded tree cover and seedling forest stock, making reforestation difficult in numerous areas. Animal species diversity sharply reduced in contrast with unsprayed areas.
The use of Agent Orange in Vietnam resulted in numerous legal actions. The United Nations ratified United Nations General Assembly Resolution 31/72 and the Environmental Modification Convention. Lawsuits filed on behalf of both U.S. and Vietnamese veterans sought compensation for damages.
Agent Orange was first used by the British Armed Forces in Malaya during the Malayan Emergency. It was also used by the US military in Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam War because forests near the border with Vietnam were used by the Viet Cong. The herbicide was also used in Brazil to clear out sections of land for agriculture.
area in vietnamsprayd with agent orange ∎