Agent Orange is the code name for one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. The United States military sprayed nearly 20,000,000 US gallons (75,700,000 L) of chemical herbicides and defoliants in Vietnam, eastern Laos and parts of Cambodia, as part of Operation Ranch Hand. It was given its name from the color of the orange-striped 55 US gallon (200 L) barrels in which it was shipped, and was by far the most widely used of the so-called “Rainbow Herbicides”. Full details of the research carried out by a team from Columbia University led by Jeanne Mager Stellman can be seen in the the Nature magazine issue of 17th April 2003.
More than 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, resulting in 400,000 people being killed or maimed, and 500,000 children born with birth defects which is now affecting a fourth generation.
Children in the areas where Agent Orange was used have been affected and have multiple health problems, including various birth defects, mental disabilities, blindness, cancers, missing and extra fingers, toes and limbs. In the 1970s, high levels of dioxin were found in the breast milk of South Vietnamese women, and in the blood of U.S. soldiers who had served in Vietnam. The most affected zones are the mountainous area along Truong Son (Long Mountains) and the border between Vietnam and Cambodia. The affected residents are living in substandard conditions with many genetic diseases.
In 1970, the US National Academy of Sciences began a study of the effects of the use of Agent Orange on Vietnam, and the Institute of Medicine drew a list of illnesses and deformities related to the use of Agent Orange.
A 50:50 mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, it was manufactured for the U.S. Department of Defense primarily by Monsanto Corporation. The 2,4,5-T used to produce Agent Orange was later discovered to be contaminated with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD), an extremely toxic dioxin.