U.S. Finally Cleaning Up Some of Its Agent Orange Mess in Vietnam
More than 50 years after it first sprayed Agent Orange in Vietnam, the U.S. government has started a program to help clean up a small portion of the contamination it caused during the war.
The Obama administration plans to spend $43 million over four years to remediate an area near Da Nang in central Vietnam. A former U.S. air base left behind large swaths of land polluted with dioxin, the chemical contaminant in Agent Orange that can cause cancer, birth defects, and other diseases.
In a country that commemorates the 10 years of American spraying, many Vietnamese reacted bitterly toward the news, calling the program too little and too late. Many in the country were incensed that Dow Chemical, a producer of the poison, was allowed to be a sponsor at the Olympic Games this year.
Nguyen Van Rinh, a retired Vietnamese military commander who now chairs the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin, told The New York Times: “The plight of Agent Orange victims continues. I think the relationship would rise up to new heights if the American government took responsibility and helped their victims and address the consequences.”
It is estimated that the U.S. military sprayed about 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos from 1961 to 1971. More than five million acres of forest and cropland—an area roughly the size of New Jersey—were destroyed by the defoliants.
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