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Agent Orange is the code name for one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. military as part of it’s herbicidal / chemical warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. Vietnam estimates 400,000 people were killed or maimed, and 500,000 children born with birth defects.
A 50:50 mixture of 2,4,5,-T and 2,4-D, was manufactured for the U.S. Department of Defense primarily by Monsanto Corporation and Dow Chemical. The 2,4,5-T used to produce Agent Oange was later discovered to be contaminated with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin, an extremely toxic dioxin compound. Agent Orange was given it’s name from the color of the orange striped 55 gallon drums in which it was shipped, and was by far the most widely used of the so-called “Rainbow Herbicides”
In 1943, plant biologist Arther Galston began studying the compound triiododobenzoic acid as a plant growth hormone, in an attempt to adapt soybeans to a short growing seasom. Galston found that excessive usage of the compound caused catastrophic defoliation, a finding later used by his colleaque, Ian Sussex to develop the family of herbicides used in “Operation Ranch Hand”. Galston was especially concerned about the compound’s side effects to humans and the enviroment.
In 1943, the U.S. Department of the Army contracted the University of Chicago to study the effects of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T on cereal grains (including rice and broadleaf crops). From these studies arose the concept of using aerial applications of herbicides to destroy enemy crops to disrupt their food supply. In early 1945, the U.S. Army ran tests of various 2,4,-D and 2,4,5-T mixtures at Bushnell Army Airfield in Flordia, which is now listed as a formerly Used Defense Site.
Agent Orange contains Dioxin, it is a member of the class of persistent organic pollutants which resulted from the deliberately accelerated production of 2,4,5-T, one of the components of Agent Orange. Dioxin can shorten the life of humans exposed to it and associated with severe degradation of health in this and, potentially, future generations. Dioxin is toxic over a long period, a scale of many decades, and does not degrade readily. Dioxin is not absorbed by plants nor is it water soluble. it can attach to fine soil particles or sediment, which are then carried by water downstream and settle in the bottoms of ponds and lakes. It continues to adversely affect people who eat dioxin contaminated fish, molluscs and fowl produced around a handful of pointsources of dioxin called “dioxin hot spots.” Dioxin’s continuing impact can be slowed by genetic counselling, cutting the dioxin exposure in the human food chain and by enviromental remediation of contaminated sites. The adverse effects of dioxin on human health can be ameliorated in most cases if detected early, but they cannot be fully corrected in some cases by any amount of time or money. If dioxin permanently alters the the intricate internal cellular and chemical balances involved in maintaining good human health, there is serious risk of life-long health problems which may ultimately lead to mortality.