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Thursday, April 17, 2003

Experts from New York's Columbia University have found that "The United States military used much more Agent Orange and other defoliant spray during the Vietnam war than previously thought."

By checking operational + procurement records the academics have worked out which jungle defoliants were used and where they were sprayed.

The scientists, led by Jeanne Mager Stellman, conclude that 10% more Agent Orange was sprayed than previously realised, bringing the total to 77,000,000 litres, and that earlier forms of Agent Orange contained double the concentration of dioxins (cancer causing chemicals) of later batches

At least 15 different chemicals were sprayed on the jungle in Vietnam including (Agent Purple, Agent Blue, Agent Pink + Agent White), and the Columbia team concludes that "millions of Vietnamese were likely to have been sprayed upon directly". Previous research has found that some Vietnamese have 200 times the normal level of dioxin in their bodies.

Some US veterans have complained of experiencing serious health-effects as a result of their exposure to Agent Orange but Title 38 of the United States Code prohibits veterans from suing the government for injuries suffered while in the military.

A class action suit was filed in behalf of veterans in 1979 against the chemical companies and settled out of court. The final funds in this legal action were distributed by 1992. Additional attempts to sue the manufacturers have been attempted, and have been prohibited by the courts. The most strongly fought of these legal battles, Ivy vs. Diamond Shamrock was supported in behalf of the plaintiff by attorney generals in all fifty states, the Supreme Court, however, refused to hear the arguments and that case ended in 1992. In the parlance of the court, the issue is "res judicata" or "the matter is settled".

Find out more about Agent Orange here or support an orphanage for disabled Vietnamese children here...

Jeanne Mager Stellman's article in the science journal Nature can be found here.