environment

About Agent Orange

During the Vietnam War, the United States used Agent Orange to kill jungle foliage that served as cover for Viet Cong forces. American pilots sprayed Agent Orange from the air while ground troops applied the defoliant from tanks with hoses or from backpack sprayers. From 1962 to 1971, nearly 12 million gallons of Agent Orange doused the Vietnamese countryside. By war’s end, Agent Orange and related herbicides destroyed 4.5 million acres of forest and 585,000 acres of cultivated land.

The manufacture of Agent Orange produces dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals known to humankind. Monsanto and Dow Chemical produced the majority of Agent Orange, which was also manufactured by Diamond Shamrock, Hercules, Uniroyal, and others. Years and even decades after serving in areas sprayed with Agent Orange, American veterans began showing high rates of disease. Dioxin also causes genetic damage that has appeared in veterans’ children and potentially their grandchildren.

The effects of the war on the Vietnamese people have been devastating. Children in families affected by Agent Orange suffer skin rashes, severe personality disorders, memory loss, enlarged head, organ and metabolic dysfunction, missing or abnormal reproductive organs, miscarriages, cancers, numbness, hearing loss, deaths, and neurological defects. The Vietnamese show strong evidence of genetic damage caused by exposure to dioxin.

The experience of the American veterans and their families is very similar to the experience of the Vietnamese and their families. When we start telling each other our stories, our common bond begins to become clear.  What has been a separate experience of suffering can now become a shared experience of healing between America and Vietnam. 

In A Permanent Mark, this is the resounding message: what unites us is stronger than what divides us