Agent Orange Today

Agent Orange Today

Agent Orange was used as a herbicide in Operation Ranch Hand, a herbicidal warfare program, by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War (1961-1971). Its purpose was to expose the troops that were hiding in the trees. However, the herbicide was contaminated with a dioxin which caused many of the health effects whose origin had previously been unexplainable.  Exposure to this chemical has caused a large number of deaths, birth defects, and ongoing health effects that have lasted for over three decades.

Distribution of Agent Orange in the Amazon Rainforest

The use of Agent Orange is still ongoing today, even with prior knowledge of both the health effects and detriments to the environment that it has caused. On July 6, around 450 acres of land in the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest were cleared away by the use of Agent Orange. Though the forest is being cleared away to make room for cattle ranching or agricultural purposes, the chemicals being used to clear away the forest are being stored and distributed incorrectly. Authorities found over four tons of chemicals along the side of a trans-Amazon highway, and the chemicals were being distributed through the use of an aircraft. Spraying of the chemical by aircraft can lead to in accurate deployment of the herbicide, affecting areas that may not have initially been part of the intended target area.

Improper use of these chemicals can lead to further detriment to the environment. The chemicals can seep into the groundwater and prove harmful to the organisms in the surrounding area. In addition, there has been an increase in deforestation activities in the Amazon Rainforest due to the reformation of environmental laws as well as increased product costs.

With a shift in mentality towards an increase in productivity and cost-effectiveness, it would seem that fundamental concerns such as the maintenance of the environment or the ecosystem are being prioritized less highly. The aftereffects of dioxin use during the Vietnam War still remain a blatantly obvious reminder of the reasons why this chemical should not be used despite its effectiveness in deforestation.


Karen Ngo

Toronto, ON

Team 5: International Health

About the author

Karen Ngo Karen Ngo, 20, McMaster University, Ontario, CA (Team 5 Leader) - I would like to be an East Villagers Service Scholar Intern because I am interested in global health and social issues. Having studied Health Sciences throughout my undergraduate career, I learned about various global issues, and became interested in acquiring more knowledge and methods to approaching and tackling some of these issues. Through interacting with other service scholar interns and those working with East Villagers, it would be possible to develop a better understanding of these issues and potential solutions.

  1. Excellent article. Just wanted to add a note that there is an Agent Orange registry for both Vietnam Vets that were in country, up rivers and just off shore as well as for Korean War vets. The time periods both VN and Korean vets are in a different time frame, but potential problems are the same. New problems related to AO are added to national data base and vets should research this list on line and file claims with the VA if they are diagnosed with ir think they have any of those related problems. Thank you.

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