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Japan Tech Could be The Key to Scrubbing Agent Orange From Vietnam

Agent Orange contamination, along with unexploded ordnance (UXOs), have proven to be the two most harmful legacies of the American War in terms of public health. While experts say it could take an estimated 300 years to clear 800,000 tons of UXOs in Vietnam, Japan may have just found the key to cleaning up soil tainted by Agent Orange, the chemical defoliant used by the U.S. military in its herbicidal warfare program.

During the war, the American military sprayed 44 million liters of Agent Orange across large areas of the Vietnamese countryside in an effort to strip dense jungle to used by the Viet Cong as cover for troop and supply movements.

The defoliant is rich in dioxin and has been linked to “physical deformities, mental problems, blindness, blood diseases, and lung cancers,” according to Quartz (for more on Agent Orange’s painful legacy, check out this extensive piece from Reuters), and directly affected 4.8 million Vietnamese, not counting the millions of children suffering from birth defects since the end of the war (Monsanto, the company that produced the chemical recently returned to Vietnam where it licenses its genetically modified corn strains to local farmers).

Fortunately, Japanese construction firm Shimizu may hold the key to eradicating the chemical.

In 2011, the company began to test a water pressure technology to purify soil contaminated during the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant with successful results.

Nikkei Asian Review broke down the process:

 “Shimizu's technology… passes contaminated soil through a sieve to separate reusable dirt from that which needs to be decontaminated. The "dirty" soil is heated to more than 1,000 C, removing contaminants effectively, according to Shimizu officials.”

In October, the company received a soil sample from the highly contaminated airport at Bien Hoa. The sample is currently being tested with Shimizu’s decontamination technology.

Though this technique may prove to be an effective cleanup method, cost may prove to be a problem.

“Decontaminating Bien Hoa alone is estimated to cost $250 million,” wrote the Nikkei Asian Review.

It will be interesting to see how the high price tag will affect decision making if the results of the soil test prove successful.

[Photo via Wikipedia]

Related Articles:

Official: 300 Years to Clean up 800,000 Tons Unexploded Ordinance in Vietnam

The 'Most Interesting Man in the World' Helps Clear Central Vietnam of Unexploded Ordinance

The Toxic Legacy of Agent Orange

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