Agent Orange is not old news
By The Plain Dealer Editorial Board
February 03, 2011
|* USAF Spraying AO|
“Agent Orange? Isn’t that old news?” the customs agent asked Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz as she returned from a trip to Vietnam spent investigating the lasting effects of Agent Orange, the dioxin-laced herbicide the U.S. military used by the millions of gallons during the Vietnam War. No, it isn’t.
Schultz showed why Sunday in The Plain Dealer, in “Unfinished Business,” describing how this dangerous defoliant, used to strip leaves from trees in the jungle, shattered lives on both sides of the globe. An estimated 4.5 million Vietnamese and 2.5 million American veterans may have been exposed. The dioxins in Agent Orange now are linked to a slew of cancers, Type 2 diabetes and other illnesses.
The war ended 35 years ago, but no one arrived to clean up the lingering poisons. Only recently have U.S. and U.N. groups announced limited, poorly funded efforts to remove contaminants at some airfield hot spots. More must be done. The United States needs to shoulder the bulk of this responsibility.
That includes the responsibility to learn more about the second-generation illnesses that could trace to a parent’s Agent Orange exposure. Veterans’ children can’t be swept aside as veterans were right after the war. One is Heather Bowser, daughter of an Ohio veteran exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. She believes, as her father did, that her birth defects stem from that exposure.
Researchers are still ferreting out the legacy of dioxin exposure, but there’s little quibbling over the toxic nature of contaminants left behind. The United States, public and private donors and Vietnam need to sound a clearer alarm and clean up the worst hot spots.
Until that occurs, Agent Orange can’t be considered old news or finished business, either in Vietnam or this country.
Suffering and sickness in the endless wake of Agent Orange
- Part 1: The Vietnam War ended but a silent threat from Agent Orange remained
- Part 2: Friendship Village provides support to people affected by Agent Orange
- Part 3: Agent Orange leads Heather Bowser to connect with her father’s past in Vietnam
- Part 4: Agent Orange leaves its mark on the life of Heather Bowser
- Part 5: Heather Bowser, children touched by Agent Orange find a common bond in Friendship Village
- Part 6: Ending the lingering threat of Agent Orange begins with awareness
* indicates comments made by Dioxinnz blog editor