In war, armies constantly introduce new technologies in an attempt to maintain the advantage over their enemies. In the Vietnam War, the Americans used Agent Orange, a plant killer that destroyed the massive amount of vegetation that sheltered the enemy guerillas in Vietnam. Although, the amount of damage caused by the chemical surpassed all expectations. Agent Orange dealt crushing blows to both American and Vietnamese forces both militarily and socially, as well as cripple the Vietnamese economy for years to come. .
The chemical Agent Orange was one of several colored-coded herbicides sprayed throughout the forest landscape of Vietnam during the war from 1961 to 1971. Named from the orange stripe painted across the containment drums, Agent Orange was a mixture of two herbicides. The first, 2,4-D, is a plant growth regulator which contains nothing more than various salts and mild acids, rendering 2,4-D relatively harmless.1 The second, 2,4,5-T, is far more dangerous. Like 2,4-D, it contains salts and mild acids, although his herbicide contains dioxin. Dioxin is an organic pollutant that contaminates the Agent Orange. This toxin is one of the most powerful created by human hands with potency one hundred and seventy times stronger than that of cyanide.2 Without the dioxin, Agent Orange degrades after a few days, preventing permanent damage to anything it comes into contact with. The toxic dioxin causes the Agent Orange to linger much longer than intended, causing permanent damage.3.
The lifespan of dioxin differs according to its environment. Since the sun breaks down the toxin, any plant or soil surface sprayed will continue to be affected for one to three years before the toxin dies. Unfortunately, dioxin buried deep within soil or river sediment has a shocking lifespan up to one hundred years.4 This causes long term damage that will be further examined later in this essay.