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Side Effects of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War

By Marguerite Lance ; Updated July 27, 2017

Between 1962 and 1971, the United States sprayed approximately 77 million liters of Agent Orange over South Vietnam's jungles. Agent Orange is an herbicide and defoliant that caused significant health problems for the South Vietnamese who were directly exposed to it, their children and grandchildren and the veterans who were exposed to the chemical during their service in the Vietnam conflict.


Developed during the 1940s and primarily used during the Vietnam conflict, Agent Orange was the most commonly used herbicide in the United States' "Rainbow Herbicide" herbicide warfare program. A form of chemical warfare, Agent Orange was used as a defoliant to prevent the jungles from being utilized as cover by Vietnamese soldiers, destroy food crops (particularly those used by the military), clear base perimeters and force civilians to flee into particular geographic locales.


Vietnam has reported that 4.8 million Vietnamese were exposed to Agent Orange, and that an estimated 400,000 people were killed and another 500,000 children have been born with birth defects attributed to either their exposure or their parent's or grandparent's exposure to Agent Orange.

The Vietnamese were not the only people affected by this herbicide during the Vietnam Conflict: American soldiers were exposed to Agent Orange during their service; Canadian soldiers were exposed to Agent Orange when it was tested during the late 60s at the Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick.

Effects on Vietnam

The Vietnamese who were exposed to Agent Orange have reported: -- skin diseases -- cancer -- blindness -- paralysis -- muscular disorders -- skeletal disorders -- significant weakness

Those exposed to Agent Orange have had children with birth defects such as: -- extra fingers and toes -- cleft palates -- hernias -- mental disabilities

Effects on Veterans

The United States Department of Veteran Affairs have identified the following diseases as being associated with exposure to Agent Orange: -- Acute and Subacute Transient Peripheral Neuropathy -- AL Amyloidosis -- Chloracne -- Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia -- Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2) -- Hodgkin's Disease -- Multiple Myeloma -- Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma -- Porphyria Cutanea Tarda -- Prostate Cancer -- Respiratory Cancers -- Soft Tissue Sarcoma (other than Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma, Kaposi's sarcoma, or Mesothelioma)

Birth defects have also been identified among the veteran's children. Spina bifida seems to be the most common defect; however, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs, veterans have had children with other birth defects which have been attributed to Agent Orange exposure.


The United States Department of Veteran Affairs offers health benefits to all veterans who served during the Vietnam Conflict and were exposed to Agent Orange and a monthly disability compensation package to veterans who were injured or became ill during active duty. Children of Vietnam veterans who have certain birth defects (such as spina bifida) are also eligible for benefits. As of March 2009, United States veterans affected by Agent Orange had received 180-million in compensation and and billions of dollars of medical care.

The Canadian soldiers affected by Agent Orange have been offered 20-thousand dollars each by the Ottawa province.

As of spring 2009, the Vietnamese affected by Agent Orange have received three million dollars from the United States to be used for health care, compensation and clean up of the herbicidal residue. Vietnam continues to request more compensation.

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