Between 1961 and 1971 about 77 million litres of Agent Orange were sprayed over approximately 2.9 million hectares in Vietnam, much of it farmland. During what the Vietnamese called the American War signs of the effects of this spraying began to emerge among soldiers and civilians. The Vietnamese have long claimed that Agent Orange has seriously damaged the health of those who lived in the areas where it was used. Despite United States assertions that no proof exists to support this claim, that country’s own veterans of the war in Vietnam who came into contact with Agent Orange are able to claim compensation for a range of medical conditions acknowledged to be associated with dioxin.
Although the defoliation program ended in 1971, for many years high levels of dioxin remained in the soil over which Agent Orange was sprayed. Vietnamese studies have shown a higher level of deformity and illness, including mental retardation, among children born in areas that were subject to spraying than those born in other areas of the country.
While children born in the 1990s continued to exhibit illness and deformities associated with Agent Orange, Vietnam’s monsoon climate means that over time much of the dioxin that was sprayed over the country has washed into the sea. For Vietnamese civilians, however, even more than three decades after the war ended, the effects of Agent Orange linger.