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The victors of war have written history. Most atrocities committed by the winning side are erased from the textbooks. Though the United States of America never clearly won the Vietnam Conflict, the wounds they cut into the Vietnamese can still be felt today, especially the effects of Agent Orange. Among many other wartime weapons, Agent Orange is subject to ridicule as it has desecrated the native environment of Vietnam, and it is proven to cause many types of cancer. For this reason, the United States banned its agricultural use before the Vietnam conflict began. Though there was convincing evidence that opposed the connection between endangered health and Agent Orange, this essay argues that the use of the herbicide was ethically wrong on the basis that the official study conducted by the U.S government was flawed, the chemical TCDD physically harmed both U.S veterans and Vietnamese people, and its existence in Vietnamese environment damaged the nation’s economy.
The use of Agent Orange annihilated ecosystems in many tropical forests of Vietnam. In 1970, the US Congress ordered the National Academy of Sciences to conduct an extensive study of the ecological and physiological effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam. This investigation relied on the HERBS file: a chronological record of all flight paths over Vietnam that was used by the Air Force when spraying Agent Orange. This file  contained information about the spraying missions carried out between August 1965 and December 1971. The error rate of the The HERBS was about 10%, meaning that due to transcription, data entry, and pilot recording errors there was roughly a 10% of all data recorded in the file was questionable*. In order to correct this error rate, the National Academy of Science examined archived* information and discovered additional archived data, such as military herbicide operations in Vietnam were a matter of scientific controversy since their beginning. 
In April 1970, the highly toxic known as TCDD was banned from most US domestic uses because of its teratogenicity (Stellman). The dioxin TCDD was a byproduct of the production of herbicide. “Dioxins are pollutants that are released into the environment by burning waste, diesel exhaust, chemical manufacturing, and other processes” (US Department of Veterans Affairs). According to the Environmental Protection Agency, TCDD was the most toxic dioxin and classified as a carcinogen. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognized certain cancers and other health problems as probable diseases linked to Agent Orange exposure. Veterans and their family members may have contracted diseases like Chronic B-cell Leukemias, Hodgkins Lymphoma, Multiple Myeloma, or one of over 20 different types of cancer. The VA also identified a possible link between TCDD exposure and birth defects among Vietnamese children. One of the most common congenital birth defects found was Spina bifida, a defect in the developing fetus that resulted in incomplete closing of the spine. It was determined that the Veterans’ exposure to Agent Orange during active years of service in Vietnam or Korea was the probable cause of this disease (US Department of Veterans Affairs). Because approximately 3,181 Vietnamese people were sprayed directly with Agent Orange and at least 2.1 million or more were present during the spraying, it is likely that a great number of Vietnamese people suffered from these ailments (Stellman). 
Throughout the Vietnam conflict, herbicides were utilized for military purposes on a large scale, mostly to destroy the throws of thick forests that shielded the Viet Cong. A special committee called the Committee for Herbicide Effect in Vietnam was created when questions about the longterm effects of Agent Orange arose. The main objectives of the committee were to determine how to repair Vietnam’s economy, as well as repair the damages done to its flora and fauna after the war. The study would also determine if and how herbicides would be used in future U.S military conflicts, effectively answering whether or not herbicides fell within the category of chemical warfare as defined by the Geneva protocols. One of the results of the scientific study of the effects of TCDD on the Vietnamese population was based on the concept of energy transfer through the food chain; i.e. once a chemical is consumed by an animal, traces of it would pass to its predator. The Committee for Herbicide Effect in Vietnam’s investigation noted the presence of TCDD in breast milk and linked it to possible harmful diseases. In addition the study concluded that, other than the belief that Agent Orange was responsible for certain illnesses, by and large the Vietnamese appeared to hold no uniform views with respect to the alleged health hazards resulting from exposure to herbicide spraying; however many were greatly concerned with this possibility. Furthermore, toxicological information had indicated that the herbicidal compounds were relatively harmless, however before the conflict no substantial human population had been exposed. Moreover, at the time the program began, it was not known that preparations of the herbicide were contaminated with the extraordinarily toxic compound, TCDD. about 200 to 300 pounds of which, mixed with about 50 million pounds of 2,H,5-T, were dispensed over South Vietnam (National…Vietnam).
An opposing study done by Dr. Dwernychuk and his associates provided no evidence to support the claim that traces of TCDD in animals proved to be toxic or harmful, or even that there were increased levels of dioxin in the Vietnamese food products. In the early 2000’s, the Vietnamese government worried that dioxin levels in some areas of Vietnam would create a prejudice against Vietnam’s exports. American farmers claimed that Vietnamese food exports were contaminated with dioxin caused by Agent Orange. However, the University of Texas – Dallas’s School of Public Health conducted research on twenty-two samples of food exported to the United States. These tests revealed minimal dioxin rates, meaning it was improbable that Vietnamese food exports were strongly contaminated with dioxin from Agent Orange. The researches claimed however that the stigma associated with Agent Orange contributed itself more to the decline in the Vietnamese economy (Dwernychuk).
Looking past the physical effects of Agent Orange, there were sizable reductions of Vietnam’s cash crops. The number of fish in the region diminished significantly as well as the deaths of the once plentiful mangrove forests. Dead mangroves were harvested for fuel, has they had been for decades, although this job availability decreased after the conflict (National…Vietnam). The economic loss was sustained post conflict because the forest had been stripped and no new vegetation could grow in its place. Not only did the spraying destroy the plants, it contaminated the water and raised concern regarding the animals that lived in the effected areas. With regard to exportations, it brought up the question of quality of Vietnamese products like fish and shrimp. As a rule of thumb, plants can not absorb dioxins, but due to the falling prices of coffee in 2001 it was rumored that Vietnamese product had been contaminated. The majority of Vietnam’s farmed exports consisted of crops like coffee, cocoa, and rubber. Vietnam’s exportation of farm products decreased after the conflict, while its exportation of aquatic products increased. Aquatic products consisted of partly freshwater fish such as catfish, but the majority was made up of ocean products. This meant that for consumers abroad there was limited risk of dioxin exposure (Dwernychuk). However, suspicion tainted the credibility of all products from Vietnam. Regardless of the real effect, the consequence of adding Agent Orange to Vietnam’s environment was evident in the social stigmas that surrounded its products.
After considering published government collected data and various academic journals, the link between the harmful chemical TCDD in Agent Orange and human affliction is unmistakable. 


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