Agent Orange still continues to pollute Vietnam environment, study finds


A new study has found that Agent Orange, the herbicide mixture that was used by the US military during the Vietnam war is still polluting the environment in the area.

It is speculated that the US aircrafts sprayed more than 20 million gallons of dioxin-contaminated Agent Orange in the country's rain forests, wetlands, and croplands in an attempt to destroy a portion of food crops.

However, the dioxin in Agent Orange affected the physical health of American and Vietnamese people and the new study suggests that the aftereffects of this spraying still create negative impacts in the country. The study led by researchers at the University of Illinois and Iowa State University found that dioxin continues to enter the food supply in Vietnam even after five decades of its withdrawal.

"Existing Agent Orange and dioxin research is primarily medical in nature, focusing on the details of human exposure primarily through skin contact and long-term health effects on U.S. soldiers. In this paper, we examine the short and long-term environmental effects on the Vietnamese natural resource base and how persistence of dioxin continues to affect soils, water, sediment, fish, aquatic species, the food supply, and Vietnamese health," said Ken Olson, professor emeritus in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences and the co-author of the study, Science Daily reports.

In the study report, Ken Olson and co-author Lois Wright Morton of Iowa State University revealed that Agent Orange was actually a combination of two herbicides, 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. These compounds will become inactive in a few days after it gets exposed to sunlight. But, during the production of Agent Orange, a toxic byproduct named dioxin TCDD was formed, and this compound, once gets into the atmosphere will stay intact for decades and sometimes for centuries.

"The pathway begins with the U.S. military spraying in the 1960s, absorption by tree and shrub leaves, leaf drop to the soil surface (along with some direct contact of the spray with the soil), then attachment of the dioxin TCDD to soil organic matter and clay particles of the soil," said Lois Wright Morton.

Olson revealed that the worst dioxin-contaminated site in Vietnam is Bien Hoa airbase, which is 30 miles north of Ho Chi Minh City. Olson also suggested authorities to do incineration of contaminated soils and sediments at the Vietnam airbase hotspot to reduce the negative effects of dioxin.