Agent Orange is one of the most dangerous chemical weapons ever created and used by man. It gained its popularity when it was used during the Vietnam War by the US military. It was mainly used to destroy forests and vegetation cover that were used by Vietnamese troops. The US military has used it to clean up the thick jungle since the chemical has devastating environmental effects that have allowed Americans to have clear visibility to bomb enemy camps. Agent Orange is a herbicide composed of two equal parts of the two herbicides 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. In addition to having a serious impact on the environment, these herbicides are very harmful to human health. This is due to the presence of high levels of dioxin,
Development of Agent Orange
Various types of herbicides have been produced due to efforts by the British and the United States to develop chemical weapons for the Second World War. Among these were 2, 4, 5-T and 2, 4-D which make up Agent Orange. The chemical weapon was designed by Arthur Galton. He was under contract from the US Army Department to examine the impacts of the compounds mentioned above. He discovered that when used in large quantities, some chemicals can defoliate plants. Here came the idea of using chemicals to destroy enemy crops to deny them access to food.
In 1945, the two herbicides that make up Agent Orange were tested in Florida and, thanks to its success, the Americans began to mass produce 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D chemicals. In the following years experiments were conducted to test the ability of the two chemicals to defoliate plants in various countries, including Tanganyika and Kenya. After the use of defoliant chemical agents during the Malaysian conflict of 1948-1960 by the British, the United States used it as a precedent to decide that the use of herbicides was a legal tactic in war.
Agent Orange In The Vietnam War (1961-1971)
Under the approval of John F. Kennedy, the US Air Force initiated Operation Rand Hand by spraying herbicides in Vietnam in November 1961. This happened after the president of South Vietnam himself asked the United States to undertake this operation. During operation Rand Hand, it is said that over twenty million liters of herbicides were sprayed on 4.5 million acres of Vietnam. The goal was to destroy the crops and deny the guerrillas of Vietnam any kind of food and even destroy their cover.
The chemicals were transported in 55-gallon orange tanks. This is where the name Agent Orange developed. Agent Orange was available in various blends such as Agent Orange I and Agent Orange II, among others.
In low concentrations, herbicides in Agent Orange are harmless. However, due to the presence of dioxin which initially was not part of the herbicide, Agent Orange becomes deadly. Dioxin is produced as a by-product during the production process. In high concentration, dioxin leads to inflammation of the skin. It also leads to dangerous lung diseases and sometimes death. It affects the sight, hearing and kidneys and is known to be highly carcinogenic. In Vietnam, it caused the death of more than 400,000 people while more than 500,000 were born with serious birth problems due to Agent Orange.