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Agent Orange Advocacy
WHO WE ARE
Between 1961 and 1971, the U.S. sprayed 12 million gallons of Dioxin-contaminated Agent Orange (in addition to 8 million gallons of other herbicides) on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia—an average of 5,200 gallons a day for 3,735 days. The purpose was to destroy the lush, verdant jungle canopy.
By the end of Operation Ranch Hand in 1971, nearly 20,000 sorties had been flown. Over 7,813 square miles of upland and mangrove forests and 781 square miles of crops (an area roughly the size of New Hampshire) were destroyed. In total, more than 66,000 square miles of South Vietnam, along with large areas of Laos and parts of Cambodia, were impacted.
The U.S. used Agent Orange and other herbicides to defoliate forests and destroy cropland in an effort to destroy its enemies’ jungle hiding places. The impacts will continue for decades to come, as much of the herbicides used in the war were up to 50 times the concentration recommended for killing plants. Two-thirds of the herbicides used were also contaminated with TCDD, a form of Dioxin—a highly toxic substance linked to at least 19 classes of cancer and other medical conditions, as well as several birth defects.
Ever since the war’s end, the people of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia have been saddled with the lethal aftermath. Exposure to these toxic herbicides has yielded untold misery and health complications for those who served in Vietnam during the war, for their families, and for many others who were exposed to the herbicides where they were manufactured, used, or stored.
Human Health Impacts
On the human health front, much more needs to be done. We have worked to get funding from the U.S. to provide assistance specifically to those in Vietnam with "severe upper or lower body mobility impairment and/or cognitive or developmental disabilities" from "areas sprayed with Agent Orange and otherwise contaminated with Dioxin."
Unfortunately, this U.S. funding only reaches a small percentage of those in need in Vietnam and rarely reaches rural populations. With private funding from the Bob Feldman Fund and individual donors, we have been able to provide direct support to over 550 families in Vietnam with severely disabled children believed to be impacted by Agent Orange-Dioxin.
With funding from Green Cross International, the Year of Giving Generously, and individual donors, we are working to determine the extent of the Dioxin contamination in Laos and its impacts on human health through the Laos Agent Orange Survey. Since the Survey began, we have worked with affected people living in heavily-sprayed villages in Salavan and Savannakhet provinces supporting health care, rehabilitation, and vocational training. Though incomplete, our surveys have shown that there are significant numbers of people with congenital birth defects associated with exposure to Agent Orange.
Why Agent Orange?
Find out why the U.S. Air Force deployed tactical “Rainbow herbicides” during Operation Ranch Hand and how those herbicides destroyed dipterocarp forests, plantations, mangroves, brush lands, and other woody vegetation that constituted about 25 million acres of dense tropical forests.
Dioxin Mitigation Measures
War Legacies Project advocates for increased U.S. engagement and financial support to clean up the known Dioxin hotspots in Vietnam, of which there are over 20 with varying levels of contamination. These now-designated hotspots were former U.S. military bases in Vietnam. More research is needed to gauge the full extent of contamination at other potential hotspots throughout southern Vietnam and Laos.
Despite many years of equivocation on Agent Orange’s environmental and human health impact, the U.S. has at last begun cooperative cleanup efforts with Vietnam. Over the years since full diplomatic relations were re-established in 1995, U.S. aid to support the cleanup efforts of designated hotspots contaminated with Dioxin has increased. This financial commitment has also gone toward programs assisting Vietnamese with disabilities living in or near known Dioxin hotspots and in areas where Agent Orange was sprayed.
The Vietnamese government hopes to complete all cleanup projects of hotspots by 2030.
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