Bill Totten's Weblog

Friday, December 12, 2008

Agent Orange's toxic legacy lingers on (November 17 2008)

More than thirty years after it ended, the Vietnam War is still having a devastating impact on the lives of ordinary people. Up to five million Vietnamese were exposed to Agent Orange, a deadly herbicide sprayed by the US Army over wide areas.

The chemical killed tens of thousands but has left a tragic legacy of birth defects and disabilities in those born long after the war.

Almost eighty million litres of the poisonous herbicide was sprayed by the US military during the war in Vietnam. The aim was to destroy the jungle that provided cover for the Vietnamese army.

But the powerful weed killer contained one of the world's most toxic chemicals - dioxin. Cancer, birth defects, psychiatric disorders and diabetes are just a few of the diseases caused by it.

Vu Tan Kim was a soldier during the war. He says when the chemical was sprayed on their base, they didn't know how dangerous it was. Only after his daughter was born he was told by doctors the dioxin he was exposed to had affected his genes. His daughter is blind, her arms and legs are deformed and she is mentally handicapped.

"If I had my leg cut or went blind, that's ok. But here my blood was poisoned and even though the war ended in Vietnam, every time I come home I feel very sad when I see my daughter", he says.

He says the one dollar a day he gets from his government is not enough and that it's the US who should compensate.

However, America's constitution protects those who were responsible at the time, so the victims took the companies who developed Agent Orange to court.

But the judge, who had previously awarded millions of dollars to American veterans who suffered from the poison, threw the case out.

Nguyen Trong Nhan is a leading official of the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA). He says that, despite having little faith in America's legal system, the battle continues and they hope to win their appeal.

Da Nang International Airport is now a gateway for millions of tourists. What they don't know is that it's also one of Vietnam's three toxic hot spots. The American military stored unused dioxin at this former airbase.

Lev Fedorov, Doctor of Chemical Science says:

"Local people here are still being chronically poisoned. The dioxin that was sprayed on the territory doesn't' go anywhere. It's very resistant."

Residents nearby were warned only last year that vegetables grown here and fish caught in the lake are poisonous.


To learn more, please click . NOTE: The story contains images which you might find disturbing.

Bill Totten


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