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A Spectrum of Poison

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A Spectrum of Poison

The Vietnam War is one of the most infamous and remembered of the past generation. Spanning from 1959 to 1975, many lives, both Vietnamese and American alike were taken from this world, over 1.4 million American lives to be more precise. During this time, the United States commenced a special military operation called “Trail Dust”. With this introduction of this program, the Americans introduced a massive amount of chemical herbicide into the Vietnamese air. Among these herbicides, all named after a different colour, was Agent Orange.

Agent Orange is one of several different Agents forming the “Rainbow Herbicides”. The way that soldiers differentiated the different chemicals from each other was by the stripe of paint on their barrels. Agent Pink had a pink stripe of paint across the barrel, whereas Agent Purple would have a purple stripe. All of these chemical herbicides release dioxins except for Agent Blue and Agent White. Dioxin is a man-made chemical by-product formed during the manufacturing of other chemicals and during incineration. The name “Trail Dust” came from the visual effect given when the Agents would be sprayed on jungles, like dust trailing the helicopter or plane.

Among all the chemical herbicides used in the Vietnam War (known in Vietnam as the American War), Agent Orange was by far the most used, more than 19 million gallons deployed in South Vietnam. Agent Orange works by rapidly increasing the rate at which broad-leafed plants grow, eventually defoliating them. They did this not only to send Vietnam’s agricultural economy into turmoil, but also to reduce the amount of hiding space for the Vietnamese as they would often hide in the dense jungle. In total, approximately 77 million gallons of herbicides were deployed onto South Vietnam during the war.

Studies of populations highly exposed to dioxin, though not necessarily Agent Orange, indicate increased risk of various types of cancer and genetic defects. Because of all the poison that soldiers and civilians were exposed to, many of them have become gravely ill. It cost over 50 000 birth defects as well as hundreds of thousands of cancers among. Not only can it cause immediate effects, but also genetic disorders that may be passed down onto newer generations. According to Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are still 4.8 million Vietnamese people thought to be victims of Agent Orange. They live mainly in mountainous area along Truong Son and border between Vietnam and Cambodia. These people together with their affected descendants are living in sub-standard conditions and with many genetic diseases.

There have been numerous lawsuits filed against the producers of Agent Orange, namely Monsanto and Dow Chemical. In 1984, some companies that manufactured chemical herbicides that were used in the war paid $180 million to a fund for American veterans. Right until this day, no Vietnamese party has ever successfully sued these companies, nor has any money been given as compensation for their suffering due to Agent Orange. On March 10, 2005, Judge Jack B. Weinstein - who had defended the U.S. veteran victims of Agent Orange - dismissed the suit, ruling that there was



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