Vietnam War Still Leaves Traces of Agent Orange in Vietnam

The Vietnam War was a turbulent time in the arena of politic and international relations, and it appears to have left a bitter taste with both the Vietnamese and Americans which continues to this day. Now, both nations’ governments are collaborating on a project to deal with America’s use of Agent Orange during the war. Agent Orange was the name of the chemical used during the Vietnam War to destroy plant life that the Vietcong used as cover.

The main issue surrounding the use of Agent Orange is that it appears to have caused a great deal of disease which is still prevalent in the country. It will take nearly a million dollars to treat the soil in areas that were sprayed during the Vietnam War, but the American government has made a show of good faith by beginning with the site of a former base at Da Nang. Aside from its use by airmen, it was also a storage site for Agent Orange and therefore among the more contaminated locations.

The decontamination process involves heating the soil to incredible temperatures, which eliminates traces of the chemical dioxin. It is then retested a few months later to ensure the contamination levels have dropped for good. Because the Vietnam War covered a good deal of soil, full decontamination will take some time. As of now, the structures used in the process hold a little less than fifty thousand cubic meters of soil, the Voice of America reports.

There has never been an actual admission by the United States that the dioxin in Agent Orange has caused any of the health defects of which it is suspected, which include birth defects, cancer, and diabetes. Still, America wants to improve relations which went south during the Vietnam War. Thus, they are trying to reach a middle ground in which they do not have to claim full culpability for every instance of related illness, yet still show willingness to help decrease contamination levels in case they are, in fact, an issue.

While the Vietnam War did not do anything to improve the relationship between the Vietnamese and the United States, the new efforts to decontaminate the soil are helping. It now looks plausible that the two nations may become allies of a sort. Given the volatile nature of the era in which the Vietnam War occurred, many are optimistic that the two countries will be able to maintain a peaceful alliance by putting to bed wartime resentments.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE