Agent Orange

From Academic Kids

For other uses, see Agent Orange (disambiguation).

Agent Orange is the code name for a powerful herbicide and defoliant used widely by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Agent Orange was used from 1961 to 1971 and has disputedly caused serious harm to the health of exposed Vietnamese, Canadians and Americans, their children and grandchildren. It was part of a family of herbicides, named after the color of their storage drums, that include the more powerful and dangerous Agent Purple, Agent Pink, and Agent White.

Agent Orange is a roughly 1:1 mixture of the herbicides 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) and 2,4,5-T (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid). These herbicides were developed during the 1940s for use in controlling broad-leaf plants. First introduced in 1947, both of these herbicides had widespread use in agriculture by the middle of the 1950s.

During the Vietnam War, Agent Orange's official military purpose was to remove the leaves of trees to prevent guerrilla fighters of the National Liberation Front from hiding. Agent Orange is a colorless liquid: its name was from the color of the stripes on the barrels used to transport it. Other code-named herbicides used by the US Army in moderate to large quantities during this timeframe include Agent Blue (cacodylic acid), Agent White (4:1 mixture of 2,4-D and picloram), Agent Purple, Agent Green, and Agent Pink.

Agent Orange as a military defoliant was discontinued in 1971, after over 6,000 spraying missions in Vietnam and Cambodia; 2,4-D continues to be widely used as an herbicide. The use of 2,4,5-T has been banned in the U.S. and many other countries.


Effects on humans

Agent Orange was found to have toxic dioxin contaminants which have been blamed for causing health disorders and birth defects in both the Vietnamese population and U.S. war veterans. It has also been found to have carcinogenic properties affecting females primarily.

In 1980, New Jersey created the New Jersey Agent Orange Commission, the first state commission created to study its effects. The Commission's research project in association with Rutgers university was called "The Pointman Project". It was disbanded by governor Christine Todd Whitman in 1996.

An April 2003 report paid for by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that during the Vietnam War, 3,181 villages were sprayed directly with herbicides. Between 2.1 and 4.8 million people "would have been present during the spraying." Furthermore, many U.S. military personnel were also sprayed or came in contact with herbicides in recently sprayed areas. The study was originally undertaken for the U.S. military to get a better count of how many veterans served in sprayed areas. Researchers were given access to military records and Air Force operational folders previously not studied. The re-estimate made by the report places the volume of herbicides sprayed between 1961 and 1971 to a level 7,131,907 liters more than an uncorrected estimate published in 1974 and 9.4 million more liters than a 1974 corrected inventory. It was produced under contract for the Army by Diamond Shamrock, Dow, Hercules, Monsanto, T-H Agricultural & Nutrition, Thompson Chemicals, and Uniroyal.

On January 31, 2004, a victim's rights group, the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA), filed a class action lawsuit in a US Federal District Court in Brooklyn, New York, against several US companies, for liability in causing personal injury, by developing and producing the chemical. Dow Chemical and Monsanto were the two largest producers of Agent Orange for the US military, and were named in the suit along with eight other companies. A number of lawsuits by American GIs have been won in the years since the Vietnam War.

On March 10, 2005, the District Court judge dismissed the suit, ruling that there was no legal basis for the plaintiffs' claims. The judge concluded that Agent Orange was not considered a poison under international law at the time of its use by the US; that the US was not prohibited from using it as an herbicide; and that the companies which produced the substance were not liable for the method of its use by the government. The US government, which has sovereign immunity, had not been a target of the lawsuit. However, in 1984, chemical companies that manufactured Agent Orange paid $180 million into a fund for United States veterans following a lawsuit.

External links


The Band Sodom (Thrash metal from Germany) made an album with lyrical content based on agent orange "the fire that doesn't burn" The name of the album is "Agent Orange"

R.E.M.'s song "Orange Crush" from the album "Green" is about Agent Orange.

Further reading

  • Weisman, Joan Murray. The Effects of Exposure to Agent Orange on the Intellectual Functioning, Academic Achievement, Visual Motor Skill, and Activity Level of the Offspring of Vietnam War Veterans. Doctoral thesis. Hofstra University. 1986.

de:Agent Orange fr:Agent orange it:Agente Arancio ja:枯葉剤 sv:Agent Orange vi:Chất độc da cam


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