The Agent Orange was a chemical developed mainly by Monsanto and Dow Chemical. It is a mixture of two common herbicides (2,4-D and 2,4,5-T ) that were used separately in the United States since the late 1940s. The name was given because of the color of the orange-striped barrels in which it was shipped. The Dioxin is the deadly toxin in Agent Orange and the responsible for countless health damages. During the Vietnam War (1955-1975) the United States military forces used the Agent Orange to eliminate forest cover and crops in order to deprive of food and hiding places to the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops (Vietnamese communists also known as the National Liberation Front). From 1961 to 1972 the US military forces sprayed more than 19 million gallons of herbicides over 4.5 million acres of land in South Vietnam. This operations was called the Operation Ranch Hand. From this operation, the term ecocide (Zierler, 2011) was born to denounce the environmental destructions and potential damage. The first test spraying occurred August 10, 1961. The chemicals were sprayed from aircraft contaminating soil, water, air. Areas of Laos and Cambodia near the Vietnam border were also impacted.. Dioxin later revealed to cause serious health issues among returning U.S. servicemen and their families as well as at a larger scale among the Vietnamese population. Surviving Vietnam veterans in the United States, after many years of organized action, have finally achieved compensation from U.S government.
No compensations have been given to vietnamese people.
In 2004 the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA) filed a lawsuit in the New York court against the companies for liability and claimed the violation of international protocols and conventions. But, in 2005 the judge dismissed the lawsuit ruling there was no legal basis for the plaintiff´s claims. He concluded that the agent orange was not considered a poison under international law. In Vietnam, nearly 4.8 million people have been exposed, causing 400,000 deaths; the associated illnesses include cancers, birth defects, skin disorders, auto-immune diseases, liver disorders, psychosocial effects, neurological defects and gastrointestinal diseases.
Research suggests that another six to twelve generations will have to pass before dioxin stops affecting the genetic code. Nowadays, the dioxin has remain in Vietnam’s ecosystem, in the soil and in the food chain. According with the Aspen Institute "The half-life of dioxin depends on its location. In human bodies the half-life is 11–20 years. In the environment, the half-life varies depending on the type of soil and the depth of penetration. On leaf and soil surfaces it will last 1–3 years, depending on conditions. However, dioxin buried or leached under the surface or deep in the sediment of rivers and other bodies of water can have a half-life of more than 100 years". Waiting for compensation and justice, organizations such as catholic religious group and VAVA constantly organizing charity events and gives help and rehabilitation to affected people.
Agent Orange was banned in 1971. Remaining stocks were taken from Vietnam and the U.S. to Johnston Atoll (U.S. controlled island) where they were destroyed in 1978. On 9 August 2012, the United States and Vietnam began a cooperative cleaning up of the toxic chemical. Efforts of the US governments in accepting its responsibility have remained slow and minimal.