Agent Orange affected Vietnam in a number of ways. The spraying of the dioxin-contaminated herbicide is believed to have led to a whole range of illnesses in the population, as the Vietnamese breathed the vapors or were directly exposed to the liquid itself, or simply went about eating subsequently from a contaminated food chain during the years of the spraying. Others were or continue to be exposed to the dioxin at one of the existing hotspots in southern Vietnam. Vietnamese have experienced many illnesses that have been found to be associated with dioxin, everything from chloracne to Hodgkins Disease.
But Agent Orange may be even more pernicious. It is believed to have affected a new generations of Vietnamese, creating a wide range of disabilities among the children and even grandchildren of those exposed. It is possible that the last victims of the war in Vietnam haven’t yet been born.
Neither of these impacts was intended. What was intended was the destruction of the jungle and crop land, and in this, too, Agent Orange has had devastating effects. Vast swaths of the Vietnamese countryside were laid waste, a result that will take another century to fully heal.
Meanwhile, the dioxin contaminant in Agent Orange lives on, though by now limited to 28 known and suspected “hot spots” where the herbicides were handled and stored. To reduce the impact on human health, this dioxin must be remediated from the Vietnamese environment.
“Doesn’t it ever end?”
– Kenneth Feinberg, Court Special Master,
lawsuit against chemical companies by Vietnam veterans, 1984.