Over the next few months, I plan to produce a series of blog posts followed by a series of videos documenting the history of Agent Orange by discussing its discovery and synthesis, the first warning signs which were ignored, its use in Vietnam, the aftermath of its use, the people who tried to convince us that it was safe, and the legal case against Monsanto et al and what is happening now to help those affected.
In 1961, as part of America’s escalating war of counterinsurgency in Vietnam, President Kennedy approved a military plan to use defoliants and herbicide in South East Asia. Operation “Ranch Hand” was intended to kill foliage and destroy crops, depriving the Viet Cong of cover and supplies during the conflict. It is estimated that 76,000,000 litres of chemicals were sprayed between 1962 and 1971 over rural areas of South Vietnam and, later, in parts of Cambodia and Laos.
The most commonly used herbicide during this period was called Herbicide Orange which is better known as Agent Orange. This herbicide was made from equal parts of 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T) and 2,3-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) but also contained a small quantity of a dioxane impurity called 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD). This impurity is what we now know today caused the rise in cancer and birth defects we see associated with the Vietnam war, which in Vietnam is known as the Resistance War Against America.