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The Toxic Legacy of Agent Orange

As the US government claims to be worried about the use of chemical weapons all over the world, one question is still waiting for an answer in this country. Although the major issues causing tension between US and Vietnam governments have been resolved over the last few decades, there is still one unresolved issue: the legacy of Agent Orange.

This chemical product is a mix of two herbicides that the US used to defoliate large swaths of jungle to more easily find their enemy. The use of the chemical also destroyed the subsistence agriculture of the Vietnamese. For nine years Agent Orange was spread across this land.

And it is not just Vietnam that wants a solution to this issue. Many American war veterans have sued Monsanto and other companies involved in manufacturing the powerful herbicide as they suffer from serious illness after coming in contact with Agent Orange. And we now know that those health problems have been passed on to their descendants.

American Planes spray Agent Orange during Operation Ranch Hand.

In the US, organizations are asking citizens to contact their members of congress to pass the Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act. One of these groups, the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign, co-coordinated by Merle Ratner, has focused on the food risks created by Agent Orange:

"Regarding the food, there is a problem only in the ‘hot spots’ where Agent Orange (dioxin) remains in the soil and sediment in areas like sections of Danang, Bien Hoa, A Luoi, and some others.”

However, the congenital disabilities will remain forever in those people born with them. Heather A. Bowser, from COVVHA, Children Of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance, explains:

"Children of American Vietnam veterans were born with birth defects and illnesses due to their parent’s exposure to Agent Orange. Also children of Australian VN vets and of course the children of VN. Currently the US government only covers one birth defect in children of male VN Vets, that is spina bifida. So far they have done very little to help the kids of US vets or anyone in VN."

Today several NGOs in Vietnam are working hard, trying to clean the Vietnamese countryside, as many Vietnamese are suffering from cancer or congenital disabilities, all related to the Agent Orange. The Red Cross visits these families and offers medical and psychological help to the victims.

VAVA, Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange, is the organization in that represents, advocates for and serves the victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam. Even nowadays, fourth-generation Vietnamese are suffering from congenital disabilities, fifty years after the spread of the herbicide.

Entire families with disabilities and without economic resources, living in the remote countryside, are still waiting for help--for any help--from those responsible for this tragedy.

VAVA members are prepared to travel again to New York City to fight in court in order to get compensation for all those suffering. No one knows when the legacy of of Agent Orange will end.

This new war, which is being fought both by Americans and Vietnamese, is still waiting for an end.

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