Agent Orange was an herbicide used by the U.S. military to kill shrubs and plants during the war in Vietnam. It was named after the orange-striped barrels in which it was shipped.
Some 12 million gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed over South Vietnam at up to 50 times the concentration recommended for killing weeds. About 5 million acres of forests and crops were destroyed and an estimated 4.5 million Vietnamese and hundreds of thousands of American soldiers were exposed.
Millions of Americans and Vietnamese are still affected, directly and indirectly, by the wartime spraying of Agent Orange and other herbicides over South Vietnam. As U.S. Vietnam-era veterans know, some of the herbicides contained dioxin, a highly toxic and persistent organic pollutant linked to cancers, diabetes, birth defects and other disabilities.
- The U.S. and Vietnamese governments have both taken steps to care for veterans affected by dioxin exposure during the war. But much remains to be done for others whose needs have not been met.
- The situation in Vietnam is particularly severe, as dioxin remains in the land and continues to poison the environment and the people. The Red Cross estimates that three million Vietnamese have been affected by Agent Orange, including 150,000 children born with severe birth defects.
- Dioxin is still found in high concentrations in toxic hot spots throughout southern Vietnam, and continues to poison the food chain. Studies have linked dioxin to birth defects in the children and grandchildren of those exposed.
Addressing the impact in Vietnam will support and affirm the dignity of people there, and can help us identify new ways to enhance support for American veterans and their families who still struggle with this legacy.
Get Involved in the effort to Make Agent Orange History.
For more information, including history, environmental impact, health implications and a glossary, visit the resources section.