Thirty-five years after the United States pulled out of Vietnam, the toxic chemical Agent Orange continues to kill and maim citizens of that country and U.S. veterans of that war. Recently a joint panel of U.S. and Vietnamese scientists, citizens and governmental officials released a plan that urges the U.S. government and private corporations to provide $300 million over the next decade to clean up land and water sources still contaminated with dioxin, the chemical component of the defoliant Agent Orange.
The funds would also provide medical treatment to the tens of thousands of Vietnamese and their children suffering from disabilities and deformities linked to exposure to Agent Orange. "The war is over but the wounds from the war still remain in many areas of Vietnam," Nguyen Van Son, national assembly member and panel participant. "Many Agent Orange victims have died, but many other victims, including children with disabilities, have been fighting diseases under extreme hardship and they are in dire need of treatment and support."
The Red Cross estimates up to 3 million Vietnamese have suffered health problems related to Agent Orange exposure. During the war the U.S. military used over 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides on some 5.5 million acres of forest and crop land. The dioxin in these agents has been linked to cancers, birth defects and other serious health risks. Dioxin levels in soil, sediment and fish in some areas remains 400 times above international limits. Drinking water and consuming tainted fish and game still today transfers the dioxin and the health risks particularly to the rural population.