Agent Orange is a herbicide and defoliant chemical. It is widely known for its use by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. It was a mixture of equal parts of two herbicides, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. The chemical damaged the health of people who came into contact with it as well as extensively contaminated the environment.
Environment: Agent Orange caused enormous environmental damage in Vietnam. Over 3,100,000 hectares (31,000 km2) of forest were defoliated. Defoliants eroded tree cover and seedling forest stock, making reforestation difficult in numerous areas. Animal species diversity sharply reduced in contrast with unsprayed areas.
Toxicology: Due to its fat-soluble nature, agent orange/dioxin enters through physical contact or ingestion. Dioxin easily accumulates in the food chain. Dioxin enters the body by attaching to a protein called the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), a transcription factor. When dioxin binds to AhR, the protein moves to the nucleus, where it influences gene expression.
Vietnam War: The government of Vietnam says that 4 million of its citizens were exposed to Agent Orange, and as many as 3 million have suffered illnesses because of it. The Red Cross of Vietnam estimates that up to 1 million people are disabled or have health problems due to contaminated Agent Orange. According to a study by Dr. Nguyen Viet Nhan, children in the areas where Agent Orange was used have been affected and have multiple health problems, including cleft palate, mental disabilities, hernias, and extra fingers and toes. In the 1970s, high levels of dioxin were found in the breast milk of South Vietnamese women, and in the blood of U.S. military personnel who had served in Vietnam. The most affected zones are the mountainous area along Truong Son (Long Mountains) and the border between Vietnam and Cambodia. The affected residents are living in substandard conditions with many genetic diseases. Several Children showed birth defects due to this.