top of page

Lao Agent Orange Survey

Pink Sugar

Laos Agent Orange Survey


The Laos Agent Orange Survey (LAOS) began surveying villages, in 2014, in the heavily sprayed regions of Savannakhet and Salavan provinces. We were the first to conduct a substantive survey and collection of statistical data on the potential impacts of Agent Orange in southeastern Laos.

The purpose of the survey is to determine the consequences of wartime use of herbicides in Laos—in particular, to identify the extent of the contamination of Agent Orange and other toxic herbicides and rates of people suffering from Agent Orange-associated congenital birth defects, disabilities, cancers and other illnesses.

Pink Sugar

The Secret War in Laos and the CIA

U.S. Air Force official spray records, disclosed in 1999, show that at least fifteen districts in the provinces of Kham Mouane, Savannakhet, Salavan, Xekong, and Attapeu were heavily and repeatedly sprayed with tactical herbicides. This area was the location of the former Ho Chi Minh Trail and is among the most impoverished in Laos. The Lao census of 2005 identified unusually high incidents of disabilities in these districts.

It is not known how much aerial spraying or military base clearing was done, at the direction of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). One Air America veteran reported that he fitted a Pilatus Porter (number XW – PCB), a short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft, with spray tanks and that that plane was used for two months in 1968 for herbicide spraying near Long Tieng and the area south of Na Khang in Sainyabuli Province.

In addition, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs Administration website notes that planes were loaded in Udorn, Thailand to spray Agent Orange in Northern Laos but the records of where this spraying took place have not yet been identified. Anecdotes of villagers near former CIA landing zones and trail watching sites suggest that hand spraying of herbicides also occurred in Laos.

The LAOS estimates 500,000 Lao citizens in about 178 villages were potentially exposed to wartime herbicide sprayings. These affected villages—in the districts of Xepone, Nong, Vilabouly, Phin, Samoi, Taoey, Kalum, Dak Cheung, Lamam, Xanxay, Phouvong Xaysettha and Xanamxay—are all located in Laos’s southeast hinterlands. Ethnic minorities of the Mon-Khmer linguistic group, previously labeled Lao Teung (Midland Lao) of the Annamese Cordillera, constitute the largest population living on this remote and forested plateau.

The Progress of the LAOS

War Legacies Project has been able to survey 126 villages in five of the sprayed districts in southern Laos, in the Taoey and Samoi districts of Salavan province and the Villabouly, Nong, and Sepone districts of Savannakhet Province. We have identified over 500 people with congenital birth defects that may be associated with exposure to Agent Orange.  
When possible we have provided medical care and/or vocational training for those identified in our surveying work. We’ve given monthly financial support to nine children and young adults with epilepsy to cover transportation and traveling costs to and from major district hospitals and for medication and subsequent check-ups.

Pink Sugar

What We Have Done

We have facilitated the provision of medical care and rehabilitation services to over a hundred people that were identified by the survey. The efforts have focused specifically on individuals with certain types of congenital problems that meet two criteria:

The person has had one or more of the following medical conditions from birth that are either on the the U.S. Veterans Affairs list of birth defects found among the children of female veterans who served in Vietnam or are on the list of birth defects/disabilities that the Vietnamese government recognizes as associated with exposure to Agent Orange. This includes but is not limited to: spinal bifida, deformed extremities (legs, arms, feet, hands and other orthopedic conditions), cleft palate, cleft lip, neurological disorders, hydrocephaly, microcephaly, and learning disabilities.

The person’s parents and grandparents lived in the Agent Orange sprayed areas along the former Ho Chi Minh Trail during the U.S. Secret War in Laos.


As of May 2019, we have surveyed 126 villages in the Xepone, Nong, and Vilabouly districts of Savannakhet and the Taoey and Samoi districts of Salavan province. We have identified over 500 children and adults who meet the two above-mentioned conditions.
In each surveyed village, there was an average of four people with congenital birth defects. Over 120 people identified have since received medical services, physical therapy, or assistive devices, or have attended vocational training. War Legacies Project will continue our services and assistance programs to those already identified. We are currently surveying an additional 119 villages in Taoey, Villabouy, and Nong districts. Funding permitted, we will extend the scope of our surveying efforts to include affected villages in Xekong and Attepeu provinces in Laos.

bottom of page