What was Agent Orange?
Agent Orange was a herbicide developed for military use. Chemically, the product was a 50/50 mix of two herbicides, 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) and 2,4,5-T (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid). These herbicides were both developed as weed killers in the 1940’s, and were effective against broad leaf plants and several crops.
Why did the military use herbicides?
Herbicides were developed to be deployed in enemy areas to deny cover and concealment to the enemy. In dense terrain particularly, the use of herbicides to destroy covering vegetation was to protect American and allied troops from ambush or other undetected movement of the enemy.
Prior to it’s introduction for use in Vietnam, was Agent Orange used in the United States?
Yes. During the testing phase of Agent Orange, use tests were carried out at Fort Detrick, Maryland, Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, and Camp Drum in New York. Other testing was also conducted in Thailand in the early 1960’s.
Why was the product called Agent Orange?
The name signifies orange identifying bands that were used on the fifty-five gallon drums the product was shipped in. Other herbicides were also used in Vietnam, and were known by color coded names too, such Agent White, Agent Blue, Agent Purple, Agent Pink and Agent Green were also used.
Who were the manufacturers who produced Agent Orange for the military?
Dow, Monsanto, Diamond Shamrock Corporation, Hercules Inc., Uniroyal Inc., T-H Agricultural & Nutrition Company, and Thompson Chemicals Corporation. These companies were subjects of a class action lawsuit filed originally in 1979 and settled out of court in 1987 for $180 million. The official name of the lawsuit was Multidistrict litigation 381 (MDL 381), and was designated In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation.
I want (or I had) an “Agent Orange Test”– What is this?
There is no such thing as an Agent Orange Test. This is often confused with two things:
- The Agent Orange screening physical given at VA Medical Centers: This test is nothing more that a general physical which includes examination, X-rays and blood work. It does not detect Agent Orange exposure. This physical is useful only as any routine physical is useful in early detection of disease or health problems. The VA does keep these results in a registry.
- Dioxin analysis of the blood or fatty tissue: There are sophisticated tests, which will measure dioxin levels in both blood and fatty tissues. (Dioxin is the unwanted byproduct in Agent Orange). These tests are research-oriented only, and have never been available on a large-scale or clinical basis. The VA does not perform these tests. Only a few laboratories in the world are able to do this testing, and it is usually quite expensive, around $1500-$2000 per test.
Can I sue the government or the chemical companies?
No. 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”.
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We would encourage any veteran with in-country Vietnam service and diagnosed diabetes mellitus to contact his or her local VA office for information and assistance on applying for benefits, or you may apply on-line.
Veterans’ Diseases Related to “Agent Orange” Exposure
Veterans may be eligible for disability compensation and health care benefits for diseases that VA has recognized as related to exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides. Surviving spouses, dependent children and dependent parents of Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and died as the result of diseases related to Agent Orange exposure may be eligible for survivors’ benefits.
- Acute and Subacute Peripheral Neuropathy
A nervous system condition that causes numbness, tingling, and motor weakness. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10% disabling within 1 year of exposure to herbicides and resolve within 2 years after the date it began.
- AL Amyloidosis
A rare disease caused when an abnormal protein, amyloid, enters tissues or organs.
- Chloracne (or Similar Acneform Disease)
A skin condition that occurs soon after exposure to chemicals and looks like common forms of acne seen in teenagers. Under VA’s rating regulations, chloracne (or other acneform disease similar to chloracne) must be at least 10% disabling within 1 year of exposure to herbicides.
- Chronic B-cell Leukemias
A type of cancer which affects white blood cells. This also includes Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
- Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2)
A disease characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting from the body’s inability to respond properly to the hormone insulin.
- Hodgkin’s Disease
A malignant lymphoma (cancer) characterized by progressive enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, and by progressive anemia.
- Ischemic Heart Disease
A disease characterized by a reduced supply of blood to the heart, that leads to chest pain.
- Multiple Myeloma
A cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell in bone marrow.
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
A group of cancers that affect the lymph glands and other lymphatic tissue.
- Parkinson’s Disease
A progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects muscle movement.
- Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
A disorder characterized by liver dysfunction and by thinning and blistering of the skin in sun-exposed areas. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10% disabling within 1 year of exposure to herbicides.
- Prostate Cancer
Cancer of the prostate; one of the most common cancers among men.
- Respiratory Cancers
Cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus.
- Soft Tissue Sarcoma (other than Osteosarcoma, Chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or Mesothelioma)
A group of different types of cancers in body tissues such as muscle, fat, blood and lymph vessels, and connective tissues.
These may be viewed on the Web at http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/conditions
Birth Defects Covered by VA
Birth defects are abnormalities present at birth that result in mental or physical disabilities. VA recognizes a wide range of birth defects as associated with women Veterans’ service in Vietnam. These diseases are not tied to herbicides, including Agent Orange, or dioxin exposure, but rather to the birth mother’s service in Vietnam.
Covered birth defects include, but are not limited to, the following conditions:
- Cleft lip and cleft palate
- Congenital heart disease
- Congenital talipes equinovarus (clubfoot)
- Esophageal and intestinal atresia
- Hallerman-Streiff syndrome
- Hip dysplasia
- Hirschprung’s disease (congenital megacolon)
- Hydrocephalus due to aqueductal stenosis
- Imperforate anus
- Neural tube defects
- Poland syndrome
- Pyloric stenosis
- Syndactyly (fused digits)
- Tracheoesophageal fistula
- Undescended testicle
- Williams syndrome
Please Note: Conditions due to family disorders, birth-related injuries, or fetal or neonatal infirmities with well-established causes are not covered. If any of the birth defects listed above are determined to be a family disorder in a particular family, they are not covered birth defects.