Legacy of Agent Orange continues in U.S., Vietnam

The Chicago Tribune is in the middle of an ambitious five-part series in which reporters Jason Grotto and Tim Jones seek to shed light on one of the great gray areas of veterans’ medicine: the effects of Agent Orange. The first installment gave background on the use and consequences of Agent Orange.

Subsequent pieces chronicle the veterans’ battle for compensation, the suspected link between the defoliant and birth defects in Vietnam and continued pollution in that country from defoliants. The last, not-yet-published piece will reveal “documents showing that decisions by the U.S. military and chemical companies that manufactured the defoliants used in Vietnam made the spraying more dangerous than it had to be.”

The authors explain how they did it:

Vietnam. Photo by jrwooley6 via Flickr.

With assistance from the Fund for Investigative Journalism, the Tribune spent a month traveling to eight provinces throughout Vietnam, conducting nearly two dozen interviews with civilians and former soldiers who say they were exposed to the defoliants.

The newspaper used a database of every spraying mission, mapping software and a GPS device to help corroborate their stories. And in the U.S., the paper researched thousands of pages of government documents and traveled to the homes of veterans to gauge the impact and measure the cost in both dollars and human misery.

According to the reporters, 65 percent of Agent Orange and its defoliant relatives were contaminated with the super-toxin dioxin, and some even contained arsenic. The full impact of this chemical onslaught is unknown, but the Tribune reporters have tracked down a number of alarming anecdotes and numbers.

“We do not know the answer to the question: What happened to Vietnam veterans?” said Jeanne Stellman, an epidemiologist who has spent decades studying Agent Orange for the American Legion and the National Academy of Sciences. “The government doesn’t want to study this because of international liability and issues surrounding chemical warfare. And they’re going to win because they’re bigger and everybody’s getting old and there are new wars to worry about.”

2 thoughts on “Legacy of Agent Orange continues in U.S., Vietnam

  1. Pingback: Agent Orange’s oft-overlooked American victims : Covering Health

  2. Avatar photoSgt Jerry

    as a veteran of the United States of America who served my country with honor, respect, and honesty. I am disgusted, truly disgusted still with the United States issue on agent orange veterans and the effects contributing to that chemical.
    I have had seizures disorders and reopening a case which has been filed not by just one veteran but by thousands if not thousands of veterans that have a seizure disorder and fighting literally fighting with the VA to justify that it was caused by Agent Orange.
    I am embarrassed as an American how rotten truly rotten politics are. To the senators and congressmen and presidents past and now existing it is very shameful you turn the other way towards a serious issue which so many people are trying to express to the government about this seizure disorder disease that you will not attribute to the agent orange chemical.
    I urge any veteran who has seizure disorders that were in Vietnam write your congressman and have it put on the list between the hundreds of e-mails that I read from veterans that have the same disease due to this condition and are not being compensated or even accepted that it exists due to their military service
    truly embarrassing how can you let an American soldier served his country and turn your back on him because of what. I have seizures disorders caused by my service in the military, in 1980 VA refused to even consider Agent Orange at that time. Look what has changed due to the outcry and controversy of a cover-up. Once again America my America is not going to go away. Veterans are dying and suffering a disease every day and you won’t even accept this as a fact. Truly government in this aspect is corrupt your willing to give billions of dollars to other nations to build other armies, but you won’t even defend and take care of the fallen soldier at home. Abraham Lincoln truly is turning in his grave and disgusted that your position.

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