Agent Orange poses birth defect questions in Vietnam

American forces sprayed nearly 20 million gallons of the chemical defoliant, Agent Orange, over Vietnam, Laos and parts of Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Some areas around Ho Chi Minh City were heavily defoliated. The effort was aimed at denying the Viet Cong foliage cover.  Little, if any thought was given to the potentially devastating impacts these chemicals would have on the Vietnamese environment. 

Vietnam's Red Cross has stated that as many as 3 million Vietnamese have been affected by Agent Orange, including some 150,000 children said to have been born with birth defects related to the chemical.

The exact, or even approximate number, of such birth defects cannot be known. Records are inadequate, and connecting the chemical with any single birth defects requires a level of science lacking in Vietnam. Additionally, the issue is highly explosive. Washington wants to forget it; Hanoi does not want to draw excessive attention to the issue lest it hurt the growing tourist industry. 

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 Clearly many thousands of children have been born with deformed bodies caused by Agent Orange. How many is uncertain. 

What's left is for caring people to work with and assist children living with disabilities, some of them severe. Most do, no questions asked. I met with one of these Vietnamese recently, a Catholic sister. Global Sisters Report has the story.

 


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