I am currently in the middle of producing a series of videos documenting the history of Agent Orange, the herbicide used during the Vietnam war. I published my first video on the subject back in June, but originally started researching for the project at the beginning of 2017. Despite spending a considerable amount of time with my head in the books before I made my first video, I have recently found out that I have somehow managed to make two rather large and embarrassing mistakes in my first two videos.
The first mistake I made was when I stated, with some confidence, that Monsanto, out of all the suppliers, produced the largest quantity of (what would would become known as) Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. On further investigation, it was the Dow Chemical Company who produced 78,235 drums to be used in the conflict, compared to Monsanto’s 67,065.
Even when you factor in herbicides Purple, Pink, and Green, which also contain 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid derivatives whose synthesis generates a small quantity of the dioxane impurity that is thought to be responsible for the ill effects we see in vietnam, Dow still is on top.
The second mistake I made was that I got the two compounds wrong that make up Agent Orange. Every source I read on the subject referred to the two as 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T) and 2,3-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) when, in actual fact, these are the carboxylic acid active ingredients. In reality the n-butyl esters of 2,4,5-T and 2,4,-D have different physical properties, making them desirable for use in Vietnam.
I understand to some that these two mistakes may seem trivial, but to me they are huge because, not only do they make me look foolish, but there are missed opportunities to talk about interesting aspects of the story. Why does nearly everyone associate Agent Orange with Monsanto and not companies like Dow, despite the fact that they produced more? What desirable physical properties do the esters have over their carboxylic acid counterparts, and what kind of testing occurred at Fort Derrick?
Although I can’t go back and change my videos, in the future, when I finish my series, I plan to stitch them all together. I will also take this opportunity to make corrections and to put in more information that I believe you, the viewer, require.
This is the main reason it is taking me so long to publish the third instalment in the series, because I want to make sure that everything it contains will be factually accurate.