information was compiled in 1979. It was designed to
bring an awareness of AGENT ORANGE and related
herbicides to the American public.
developed during the Second World War, initial work
being done at the University of Chicago and later
moved to Fort Detrick, Maryland. Although they were
first considered for military use at the end of the
War in the Pacific, the first application (of 2-4-D)
was for domestic weed control in the US.
The first recorded
military use took place in Malaysia in the 1950s where
the British used 2-4-5-T to clear communication
routes. The first US field tests were conducted in
Puerto Rico, Texas, and Fort Drum in New York (1959).
In 1960 the South
Vietnamese government requested that the U.S.
government conduct trials of these herbicides for use
against guerrilla forces. Further tests were conducted
in Thailand by Fort Detrick personnel before the
chemicals were given to the RVN.
involved were known by their code names, Orange, White
and Blue. There were several others, such as Purple.
AGENT ORANGE is a
1-124-1 mixture by weight of the n-butyl esters of
2-4-5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2-4-5-T) and
2-4-dichloro-phenoxyacetic acid (2-4-D).
Agent White is a
3-882-1 mixture by weight of tri-iso-propanolamine
salts of 2-4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2-4-D) and
4-amino 3-5-6-trichloropicolinic acid (pico-lorum).
Agent Blue is a
2-663-1 mixture by weight of na-dimethyl arsenate (na
cacodylate) and dimethyl arsenic (cacodylic acid).
Orange and White are
used as defoliants and Agent Blue as a desiccant.
Agent Blue was
produced by Ansul Chemical Company which has divested
itself of this line prior to selling the company.
Agents Orange and White are still being produced. The
most widely produced and dispensed of the herbicides
in both Vietnam and the U.S. is AGENT ORANGE (2-4-5-T
Adverse effects of
the chemical 2-4-5-T and its chemical precursors on
the workers engaged in their production had been
observed as early as 1949. At that time a
Monsanto-owned plant manufacturing 2-4-5-T in Nitro,
West Virginia, had an explosion, and 228 workers
include skin eruptions on the face, neck, and back,
shortness of breath, intolerance to cold, palpable and
tender liver, a loss of sensation in the extremities,
damage to peripheral nerves, fatigue, nervousness,
irritability, insomnia, loss of libido and vertigo.
Chloracne was also
found in 1953 among the male workers and many of their
wives, children and pets at a BASF (Badischer Anilin &
Soda Fabrik)-owned 2-4-5-T plant at Ludwigshaften am
Rhein in Germany.
experienced an explosion months after the appearance
of Chloracne among the workers. In medical
examinations following the explosion, some workers
were found to have severely damaged internal organs
including the liver. Heightened blood pressure,
myocardial degeneration, severe depression, memory and
concentration disturbances were also observed. Fifteen
years later some of these workers were still suffering
from Chloracne and its symptoms despite treatment and
no subsequent exposure. One death from intestinal
sarcoma was attributed to the explosion
In 1963 another
explosion occurred in a 2-4-5-T factory owned by
Philips Duphar in Amsterdam, Holland. Fifty workers
developed Chloracne and suffered internal damage and
serious psychological disturbances as a result, and
the factory was closed. In 1973 the plant was still so
contaminated with Dioxin that it had to be dismantled,
embedded in concrete, and buried at sea.
Dow Chemical, the
largest producer of AGENT ORANGE in the U.S.
experienced an outbreak of Chloracne among its workers
in 1964 in one of their 2-4-5-T manufacturing plants.
Over seventy workers were affected, 12 of them
Dow's director of
its Midland Division, Dr. Benjamin Holder, described
the symptoms as fatigue, lassitude, depression,
blackheads (prevalent on the face, neck, and back),
and weight loss. Heavy exposure, Dr. Holder said,
could lead to internal organ damage and nervous system
In 1970, Julius F.
Johnson, Director of Research and Development,
appearing be-fore the Hart Sub-Committee of the U.S.
Congress, described Chloracne as "a skin disorder
mostly prevalent of the face, neck, and back. It is
similar in experience to severe acne of the kind
suffered by teenagers".
Dow ran its own
study of the effects of ORANGE using 220 workers and
4,600 controls. The range of exposure to 2-4-0 was
30-40/mg/do. Ten of the men were karyotyped, and no
rearrangement of genetic material was reported. The
220 men were exposed to 2-8/mg/do of 2-4-5-T. Fifty
two men were karyotyped negatively. No difference
between the study group and the control group was
indicated that a contaminant of 2-4-5-T (Dioxin) was
responsible for the Chloracne and illness experienced
by its workers. They conducted tests utilizing animals
on 2-4-5-T with varying amounts of
At levels of 27±8
the chemical was shown to be toxic and fatal to the
animals. Cleft palates were observed in further tests.
The results were not repeated with 2-4-5-T without the
contaminant. Dioxin was found to be one of the most
toxic substances known, a fatal dose being
0.022-0.045a in rats and 0.0006 in guinea pigs, LD-50
as milligrams per body weight.
Between 1965 and
1969 a 2-4-5-T production plant near Prague,
Czechoslovakia, developed leaks in its processing
area. Workers developed Chloracne and exhibited weight
loss, libido diminution and insomnia.
were observed about one to two years after the initial
exposure but lasted over eight years in some of the
exposed workers. Several workers died of severe liver
damage, and workers' families also became sick.
Contaminated equipment was buried in a mine shaft.
Other studies of
workers exposed to 2-4-D and 2-4-5-T were conducted by
Festisov (1966), Long (1969), Poland (1971), Sundell
(1972) and Piper (1973).
These studies showed
exposed workers exhibiting symptoms including fatigue,
headaches, loss of appetite, stomach and kidney pain,
upper respiratory distress, decreased hearing, smell
and neurological responses, high serum albumin values,
skin and eye irritations and concentrated TCDD
(Dioxin) levels in body fat and liver tissue. The
studies inconclusive epidemiological results must be
re-examined in light of their design deficiencies,
such as lack of use of control groups (Festisov,
Poland), insufficient follow-up period in a
retrospective study (Sundell) and lack of longitudinal
studies which would provide adequate evidence of
temporary and long-range effects (NAS). Further tests
showed TCDD, the contaminant in 2-4-5-T, to be an
extremely toxic agent with a slow effect rate and
diverse symptomatology including edema, necrotic
changes of the liver, gastric hyperplasia and
ulceration, hemmoroglus of gastrointestinal tract and
other organs, atrophy of the kidneys, thymus and other
lymphoid organs and tissues. Later, symptoms appear to
lead to decreased immune responses.
(contaminated with Dioxin) and Agent White were
authorized for use in Vietnam in November 1961, to
improve road and waterway visibility and clear camp
Later, Agent Blue
was authorized to destroy crops and clear areas
suspected of harboring enemy base camps or supply
routes. The U.S. Air Force created the 309th Air
Commando Squadron to conduct the spraying. The
operation, originally known as Hades, and became known
as Operation Ranch Hand.
In the spring of
1962 the South Vietnamese military conducted
large-scale tests of herbicides along 70 miles of
Highway 15. In the summer, further tests were
conducted using 2-4-D at 1.5 gallons/acre and 2-4-5-T
at 3.3 gallons/acre. The herbicides used in Vietnam
were applied mostly by twin engine C-123 Provider
Transports (Fairchild Hiller) equipped with 3785.1
tanks and an internal defoliant dispenser (Hayes
Inter-national) with 36 high-pressure nozzles
distributed on three booms.
Normal spray time
was two minutes, but a full load could be dumped in 30
seconds. Missions usually consisted of three to five
aircraft flying in a staggered lateral formation.
Single plane runs were known as sorties. Helicopters,
UH-1 Huey (Bell Aerospace), trucks, boats and hand
spraying equipment were also used to dispense the
herbicides in Vietnam.
selected by U.S. or Vietnamese officers, approved by
provincial chiefs, the Vietnamese Army general staff,
the U.S. Military Assistance Command and the American
During this time,
Air America also sprayed defoliants for the CIA in
combat operations against Thai insurgents on the
Isthmus of Kra. The drift of herbicides involved in
these operations was estimated at an average of 20%.
AGENT ORANGE, the
main herbicide dispensed in this period, was applied
at up to 25 times the rate of use in the U.S. Entire
tank loads were also jettisoned over one area.
Schedules of the
herbicide spraying missions were recorded on HERBS
tapes, a computerized record of time, place,
geographic location of beginning, end and flight line
of the mission, amount and type of herbicide and the
military purpose of the operation. The tapes cover the
period from August 1965 to February 1971. The HERBS
tapes were studied for accuracy by the NAS Committee,
which traveled to Vietnam, and were found to contain
inaccuracies. Even so, they may offer one source to
check individual dose exposure in the period covered
when 85% of the missions were flown.
As early as 1964,
while the spraying was increasing in Vietnam, reports
circulated of increased miscarriages stillbirths and
birth defects among exposed Vietnamese women and
animals. Because of the war conditions collecting data
to corroborate this was difficult.
Records from 1970
for Saigon's leading maternity hospital showed a
monthly average of 140 miscarriages and 150 premature
births in 2,800 pregnancies, but the hospital would
not disclose whether or not this was an increase.
In 1966 the U.S.
government started studies on the teratogenic effects
of 2-4-5-T. These studies were conducted by Bionetics
Research Laboratories of Bethesda, Maryland, for the
National Cancer Institute.
The findings were
released in 1969. Rats and mice used in the study were
given 21.5 mg/kg doses of 2-4-5-T during early
gestation. Almost all the offspring were born dead or
with cleft palates, no eyes, cystic kidneys and
enlarged livers. At 4.6 mg/kg, 39% of the offspring
were born deformed. Based on these findings Dr. Lee Du
Bridge, Presidential Advisor, said that the use of the
chemical in populated areas and on food crops should
Dow objected to the
findings saying the sample of the 2-4-5-T was used
unrepresentatively because of an abnormally high
amount of TCDD (Dioxin). As a result, new tests were
ordered by Dr. Burger, Dr. Du Bridge’s technical
assistant, and 2-4-5-T was left in use.
Other tests were run
by Dr. Jackie Verett of the FDA Toxicology Lab in
Washington, D.C., Dr. Matthew Meselson of Harvard, the
National Institute. Dr. Verett used a .50 parts per
million Dioxin solution obtained from chemicals used
in Vietnam in chicks and found resultant cysts,
necrotic livers, slipped tendons, cleft palates and
She then used a .25
parts per trillion solution and observed the same
effects. Further tests of 2-4-D and 2-4-5-T without
Dioxin still produced dead and deformed offspring.
English tests had demonstrated AGENT ORANGE to contain
as many as 17 or more contaminates.
Dr. Meselson was the
head of an American Association for Advanced Science
project. His concern was Dioxin activity and the
unknown results of its behavior. "The tetrachloro-dioxin
re-presents just one of the 12 or 13 ways the chlorine
atoms arrange themselves on a benzene ring to form
Dioxin molecules. How do we know about hexa, hepta and
octychlors or about how persistent the tetrachlor
itself is? Moreover, I am very concerned about the
Dioxin that might be formed by unreacted
trichlorphenol (2-4-5-T’s precursor) when the product
is exposed to heat. If it were taken up by plants or
wood and these were burned, you’d get more Dioxin.
Finally, I’m bothered by the bizarre mental effects
suffered by German workers making 2-4-5-T. I say, when
in doubt, stop it."
Institute of Environmental Health Ser-vices Study used
samples of 2-4-5-T which were far less contaminated
with Dioxin than the 2-4-5-T used in the Bionetics
Study. The results showed 2-4-5-T to have significant
teratogenic effects on the study of animals.
Based on this study,
on April 15, 1970, Dr. Jesse L. Steinfield, Surgeon
General, and David Packard, Secretary of Defense,
announced government action limiting the use of
2-4-5-T in the U.S. and suspending its use in Vietnam.
The National Cancer
Study conducted by Courtney showed 2-4-5-T adversely
affecting the development and viability of mouse and
"I suggest that the
teratogenicity of 2-4-5-T is such that even its use in
such apparently innocuous domestic matters as clearing
brush near power lines is undesirable. Such chemicals
could find their way into water supplies and could be
ingested in teratogenic-doses", (statement of Dr.
Arthur Galston, Yale University, December, 1969, to
the Sub-Committee on National Security Policy and
Scientific Development of the Committee on Foreign
Affairs, House of Representatives).
Autopsies of 600
reindeer in northern Sweden which had consumed foliage
sprayed with AGENT ORANGE showed a significant residue
of the herbicide in the kidneys and liver of the
The Piper Study
(1973) also showed Dioxin concentration in the liver
and body fat of exposed workers up to ten times the
In 1975 the CDC in
Atlanta studied AGENT ORANGE and issued a report
showing that exposed animals suffered appetite loss,
vascular lesions, Chloracne and gastric ulcers.
More recent tests
indicate Dioxin may be concentrated in fatty tissue
and released into the blood stream after the initial
exposure. Vietnamese epidemiologists have indicated a
four-fold increase in liver Cancer in Vietnam in the
last ten years.
Despite these tests
and world-wide evidence of the effects of AGENT
ORANGE, it has remained in use on rice crops in
Arkansas, range land in the West and Southwest,
national forests and along railroad and power lines.
In 1973 Matthew Meselson and Dr. Robert Boughman
refined an analytical system for detecting the
presence of Dioxin in parts per trillion instead of
Using their system,
they found Dioxin residues in Vietnamese crustaceans,
indicating that Dioxin had entered the food chain as a
result of earlier 2-4-5-T use.
continued to maintain that 2-4-5-T, when used as
directed, presents inconsequential hazards to the
environment, animals and man.
The evidence shows
that AGENT ORANGE was dispensed in Vietnam in amounts
far in excess of previous use; thus, the exposure of
U.S. soldiers and the Vietnamese was not as directed.
Soldiers in Vietnam sprayed one another with AGENT
ORANGE in spray fights as they were told the chemical
government departments were and were not dealing with
2-4-5-T, on July 10, 1976, another factory had an
explosion. The factory, located in Seveso, Lombardy,
Italy, was owned by ICMESA with a Swiss parent
produced a cloud of Dioxin which settled over several
adjacent communities. The people exposed became
nauseated, experienced eye and throat irritations,
developed burn-like sores on exposed skin, headaches,
dizziness and diarrhea -- the same symptoms recorded
by exposed Vietnamese and Cambodian populations. In
the next two days, small animals in the area began to
die. Most of the small animals in Zone A of the
exposed area died or had to be destroyed. Post mortems
showed that they died of Dioxin poisoning and had
extensive liver damage.
Because of the
publicity on the teratogenicity of Dioxin, abortions
were made available to the exposed women.
Studies of the
situation at the ICMESA plant revealed that Dioxin was
probably escaping periodically from the plant over a
two-year period prior to the explosion. Two and a half
months after the explosion, children and young people
began to develop Chloracne.
A year later 130
people had confirmed Chloracne. Symp-toms included
nervousness, irritability, loss of appetite and sexual
drive. Spontaneous abortions appeared to double; the
level of birth defects could not be determined because
of the abortions. In 1977 it was discovered that 280
children in an area north of the contaminated area
were suffering from Chloracne.
Deaths among workers
exposed to Dioxin contamination should be examined, as
they are among the earliest exposed, and evidence
indicates delayed onset of fatal chronic conditions.
In 1958 a worker was
assigned work on or near the reactor that was involved
in the 1953 explosion in the Badischer Anilin & Soda
Fabrik 2-4-5-T factory. The reactor had not been used
since the explosion, and the worker used protective
clothing which included a face mask. He removed the
mask several times during the work. Four days later he
was suffering from headaches and had developed hearing
loss and Chloracne. Within six months he developed
pancreatitis and an upper abdominal tumor. The man
died three months later.
Another worker at
the same plant who spent two hours working on the
reactor wall in 1958 also developed a severe case of
Chloracne. One year later a large x-ray opaque area
appeared on one of his lungs. Five years after the
initial exposure, the worker suffered acute psychosis
and committed suicide.
Two British workers
at the Coalite factory in Bolsover, England, (which
had experienced an explosion in 1968) were exposed to
cleaned equipment involved in the explosion three
years earlier. Within a month both developed Chloracne.
In the next year members of both their families also
The Philips Duphar
plant in Amsterdam had the problem when workers tried
to decontaminate the plant involved in the 1963
explosion six months later.
Although all but one
of the workers wore deep-sea diving suits and
industrial facemasks, nine of the men contracted
Chloracne, and three of them died within the next two
years. The worker who was not as well protected was
still being treated in 1976 for severe effects and was
unable to work.
Studies of these and
other exposed workers’ morbidity and mortality data
would seem essential to construct an overview of the
epidemiology of 2-4-5-T exposure, especially to help
establish risk factors for exposed populations.
Studies in animals
are also being conducted. Dr. James Allen, at the
University of Wisconsin, has been running studies on
the effects of dioxin-contaminated food on nonhuman
primates. This seems particularly efficacious in light
of recent evidence that rodents often used in medical
research seem to be subject to inherent viruses which
could distort test results.
Dr. Allen's studies
with animals indicate that dioxin persists and
accumulates in the tissue of primates. In his rodent
studies Dr. Allen found a significant increase in the
development of neoplasms suggesting the carcinogenic
potential of the compound TCDD.
Beef cattle grazing
on western ranges sprayed with 2-4-5-T a year earlier
were found, in 1974, to have sixty parts per trillion
Dioxin in their fatty tissue, a significant amount.
Dr. Meselson, who
has continued his studies at Harvard, has examined the
milk of women exposed to the herbicide in Texas and
Oregon, and the results seemed to indicate the
presence of Dioxin in parts per trillion in some of
their milk. Both these results and the cattle tests
indicate that Dioxin, one of the most toxic substances
known to man, has entered the human food chain.
The evidence also
indicates that the herbicide AGENT ORANGE (2-4-D +
2-4-5-T + contaminants, especially TCDD) has both
teratogenic and carcinogenic potential for exposed
animals and humans. The teratogenic effects may be
checked in cases where pregnant women are exposed, but
evidence in Vietnam indicates that the mother may
suffer chromatine or chromosomal damage following
exposure and pass this damage on to subsequently
conceived children. One of the complaints of Vietnam
veterans is the high incidence of birth deformities
(including monsters) present in their children.
be done on these veterans and their offspring and all
birth defects recorded. (The U.S. has no national
register for recording birth defects.)
potential of 2-4-5-T, or AGENT ORANGE, will be harder
to ascertain as it involves the development of chronic
disease with diverse symptomatology over an
undetermined and lengthy amount of time.
developed by populations exposed to AGENT ORANGE and
its components, 2-4-D, 2-4-5-T and contaminants, has
been demonstrated around the world over a lengthy
period of time. Further examination of the teratogenic
and carcinogenic effects have been conducted in
different animal experiments.
However, no serious
epidemiological study has been done in this country,
and the government, for example the VA, has used this
to disclaim causality. The argument used is that there
is no scientifically proven causality, but no one has
designed a study to attempt to establish such a
correlation in humans. Dow Chemical, one of the
largest producers of AGENT ORANGE and White, has
conducted a considerable amount of research,
especially on the unavoidable contaminant Dioxin in
Their most recent
conclusion revealed by an 18-member task force after
several months of study was that Dioxin is present
everywhere in the environment where combustion occurs,
and Dow went on to argue against zero effluence limits
for Dioxins which the EPA and FDA are interested in.
Dow still argues
that these Dioxin levels are so low as to be harmless,
especially since they are airborne rather than
transmitted through the food chain. The government
seems to be moving toward shifting the burden of proof
away from itself to the producers with irrefutable
defense papers. EPA toxicologist, Lyman Condie, says
On March 11, 1979,
the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took
unprecedented steps against the chemical. In the first
such emergency ban ever, the EPA ordered the immediate
halt to most uses of the herbicide 2, 4,5 T which
contains Dioxin, and a similar product used for
weather control known as Silvex.
suspension action was temporary while further facts
were gathered, but it was the most drastic measure the
EPA could take under the law.
The EPA said it was
acting on significant new evidence linking the
herbicide 2, 4, 5-T with miscarriages in women in