A Forgotten Evil

Nick Sherrell

Not only did the American veterans see the effects of agent orange, so did the Vietnamese. Even to this day there are families blighted from family member(s) contact with agent orange. Enough food to feed 600,000 people was destroyed through the spraying, and not long after we began spraying did the North Vietnamese begin reporting birth defects and cancer. Due to this, by 1970 the use of Dioxin was banned. A few years after the final troops leave, veterans very quickly notice cancer and birth defects among themselves. The government very quickly dismissed the 1300 veterans who initially had filed suit, yet they were dismissed for many years all though the 70’s and 80’s. The government claimed there was no “confirming factor.” Then, just by luck it was discovered that seven chemical companies had memos worried about the danger of dioxin. These companies made great gains off of the herbicide, so it was assumed that they would know the short term and long-term health effects of dioxin, they didn’t; luckily, by 1990 there was enough evidence for the veterans to now receive benefits. Finally, the government owned up and paid a quarter of a billion dollars to the Veterans Association. Most veterans are able to receive benefits, if they have one of the fourteen conditions deemed worthy of compensation by the Veterans Association.

The rare cancers and birth defects present in Vietnam are to be blamed for these occurrences. Vietnam wanted the U.S. to help rid the environment of dioxin. It was found in 2006 that lakes in Vietnam contained high levels of Dioxin, which would get into the fish’s fat allowing for human consumption. As I’ve previously stated, this movement of Dioxin through the food supply exponentially increases its’ potency. Finally, in 2012 we began efforts to clean up the very FIRST dioxin hotspot. They purify the contaminated soil by using a giant oven to bake off the dioxin present in the soil, and this is done over a period of many months. This act is important as we must take responsibility for our actions, as well as attempt to improve relations though “whole- hearted” measures and acts of reaffirmation of our positive human virtues. After all, the U.S. dismissed these claims even in the face of the Veterans for a mere 20 years. Therefore, it can be deferred that the U.S. government would be cautious at the assertion that they are responsible for horrific human rights violations at home and overseas.

Most importantly, is the highlighting of the inability of either the chemical companies, or our own government to step in and guide the ship out of the blame game, and into solving the exponentially growing problem of dioxin’s deadly health effects. So with this brings me into the chemical companies that were involved: Dow, Monsanto, Hercules, Northwest Industries, Diamond Shamrock and North American Phillips. These companies were the first to ever pay into any type of settlement with any veterans group. It was a 28 year- old veteran, Paul Reutershan, who was unable to sue the VA, or U.S. government, still was he was eventually able to file a personal injury lawsuit against Dow Chemical and two other companies. He started the whole wave of national awareness for health effects of Agent Orange, where as before there had only been a few thousand concerned veterans at best. Reutershan died before his case was concluded, however his organization the Agent Orange Victims International (AOVI), led a class action lawsuit against all the companies involved in agent orange’s production. This lawsuit was concluded with a settlement of 197 million to be paid out over ten years, however none of this went to Vietnam.




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