Agent Orange

What is Agent Orange?

herbicidesAgent orange refers to a synthetic herbicide made up of a combination of two synthetics auxins; 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T,) in equal proportions.

Also known as herbicide orange, this herbicide is also a defoliant, meaning it causes shedding of leaves when sprayed onto a plant. This agent, bearing historical significance, was formulated as a herbicidal weapon, together with other herbicides such as Agent Blue, Pink, White, Green, Purple, collectively known as the rainbow herbicides, to be employed during the world war II.


First employed in the Malayan Guerrilla war from 1948-1960 by the British, the herbicide was used to destroy the crops and trees of the insurgents fighting for communism in Malaya. It was then employed in the Vietnam War by the United States in 1961, under the codename of operation Ranch Hand.

However, a toxic dioxin compound known as 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD) was added to the herbicide; and is believed to be responsible for the adverse effects that followed its use.

With over four and a half million acres sprayed and greater than nineteen million gallons used, the ecological as well as health impacts, on both the Vietnamese (civilians and fighters) as well as the US veterans that served in the military personnel during the operation and had come into contact with the herbicide, were catastrophic.

Harmful negative effects

Exposure of the large quantities of Agent Orange resulted in numerous health implications. Congenital malformations such as the cleft palate and polydactyly, where extra toes or fingers are formed, were reported. Other effects such as mental disabilities, hernia as well as rashes were also noted.

The toxic dioxin adjunct that was added was found to persist in the blood of the military personnel serving the United States and in the Vietnamese women’s breast milk as well. This dioxin was associated with a myriad of health issues ranging from disorders of the nervous system, congenital defects, inflammatory disorders, muscular dysfunction, as well as raising the susceptibility to various cancers.

A number of cancers were linked to Agent Orange exposure in the veterans. These cancers included; leukemia, lymphomas, soft tissue sarcoma, cancers of the colon, cancers of the lung as well as cancers of the prostate. Other conditions that affected the veterans included rashes, miscarriages, psychological symptoms as well as skin irritations.

Classification of herbicides

The use of this herbicide also had the ecological implications. With about 18 percent of the forest cover sprayed, most of the trees were replaced by plants such as bamboo, which were indigenous to Vietnam and were highly aggressive as well.

Animal species reduction was also reported, with mammalian as well as bird species, being affected. The persistence of the toxic dioxin in the soils also meant that the reforestation efforts were severely hampered. Use best pesticides to save envernoment and your home from bed bugs.

Finally, various legal issues have subsequently followed, due to the devastating health effects of this herbicide. Out of court settlements have been done by the chemical companies responsible for the manufacture of the herbicide, but various challenges still arose during this settlement.

An act, the Agent Orange Act, was also passed into law by President George Bush that gave the authority to treat conditions such as chloracne and soft tissue sarcoma resulting from exposure to this herbicide.