Agent Orange - Dioxin

Context Analysis

  • Twenty million gallons of herbicides sprayed during war 1962-1971
  • Named by color of transport barrels (About 12 million gallons of Agent Orange)
  • Moderately toxic defoliants when combined in a manufacturing process created byproduct - extremely toxic dioxin.
  • Some area sprayed once, others multiple times.
  • Some received “dumps” of concentrated load when planes needed emergency weight reduction.
  • Location of spray missions largely known; locations of “dumps” mostly unknown.

Agent Orange spraying halted in 1971 - one of components found to cause birth defects in mice

Issues linked to Agent Orange

  • Birth defects (both teratogenic (affecting fetal development) and mutagenic (capable of causing genetic mutation)
  • Various cancers (Hodgkin’s, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate, respiratory, soft tissue sarcomas)
  • Skin conditions
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Nervous system conditions
  • Liver dysfunction

Effects to 3rd and 4th generation

  • Duc Pho District (1,498 1st generation (directly exposed to Agent Orange), 303 2nd generation, 109 3rd or 4th generation)
  • Mo Duc District (1,141 1st generation (directly exposed to Agent Orange), 1,105 2nd generation, 125 3rd or 4th generation)


American Cancer Society, “Agent Orange and Cancer,”

Aspen Institute:

Chicago Tribune has an interactive map of many of defoliant spray missions in Vietnam. The map can be found at

Anh D Ngo, Richard Taylor, Christine L. Roberts, and Tuan V. Nguyen, “Association between Agent Orange and birth defects: systematic review and meta-analysis,” published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Epidemiological Association, International Journal of Epidemiology, 2006, p. 1228

USAID website:

USAID Clean up of dumps: