During the Vietnam War, the United States military dumped over 12 million gallons of the herbicide Agent Orange on the lush, dense jungles of Southeast Asia. Agent Orange, a defoliant composed of a blend of two herbicides, one the highly toxic chemical compound dioxin, was sprayed on 10 percent of southern Vietnam between 1962 and 1970 in an attempt to rid communist forces of food and cover. American forces suffered crippling loses throughout the war due to guerilla tactics that centered on the use of Vietnam's heavy vegetation for protection. By 1966, over 85,000 acres had been sprayed with Agent Orange.
Militarily, the immediate results of Agent Orange use were a success. Forests were decimated almost overnight. Dense jungles were turned into swamps. Crops used to feed enemy soldiers were wiped out. Vegetation died, clearing the way for base camps, roads and fire support areas.
The long-term health effects were much different. Today, Agent Orange use has been linked to a number of medical disorders affecting an untold number of the 3 million U.S. soldiers who served in Vietnam. Chloracne, a skin disorder
, as well as several cancers
, including Hodgkin's disease, soft-tissue sarcoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, have all been linked to Agent Orange exposure. Children of many Vietnam veterans have also been diagnosed with Agent Orange-linked diseases such as leukemia
, spina bifida
, lung cancer
.In June 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked in a case brought by a Vietnam War veteran suffering from cancer due to exposure to Agent Orange. A $180 million 1984 class action settlement had foreclosed the possibility of individual lawsuits against more than a dozen companies that made the product, including Dow Chemical Co. and Monsanto Co. The settlement paid veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and then died or became ill before 1994.Plaintiff Daniel Stephenson, however, was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer after the 1994 deadline. Before the case was presented to the Supreme Court, an appeals court ruled that the veteran was not "adequately represented" in the 1984 settlement and could file another suit. Due to the 4-4 split decision, the ruling from the previous court that heard the case, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, takes effect.
A report in the August 2003 issue of The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine revealed that Agent Orange continues to contaminate food in Vietnam. According to the report, several food samples tested positive for elevated dioxin levels.
In January 2004, military researchers announced that Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the conflict had a higher-than-average risk of developing melanoma
If you or a loved one have been injured by Agent Orange, it may be important to contact an attorney
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