The Horrors of Agent Orange

Agent Orange is a horrible thing. No, it’s not a sneaky glass of orange juice, nor is it a stealthy orangutan. No, Agent Orange is a deadly, carcinogenic herbicide, that, while more commonly used in the 1960s, is still making headlines on CNN.

Reporter Hiroko Tanaka once saw a special on Japanese television that highlighted a case of two twins who were attached to each others’ heads at birth. The issue was blamed on Agent Orange, and since then Tanaka has become fascinated with Agent Orange, dedicating her life to journalism, taking photos of citizens whose lives are affected by the Agent. Agent Orange and its active ingredient dioxin is “one of the most toxic compounds known to humans,” according to the United Nations. Its original purpose was to kill trees and vegetation that blocked air visibility for U.S. forces during the Vietnam war. The after-effects are obvious: soldiers were contamined by the chemicals then, and now, The World Health Organization is still testing Agent Orange for other side effects besides cancer.

Tanaka has actually lived in the U.S for most of her life, but in 2011 she took a vacation back to her homeland – more specifically, to Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City (the city formerly known as Saigon). One of this hospitals’ biggest jobs is caring for children with deformities – many of them caused by Agent Orange. These children cannot attend school regularly or live with their families; their diseases are so bad they have no choice but to lie on hospital beds for the rest of their lives. Besides these children, the hospital is also in charge of keeping records of those who didn’t survive past infancy due to Agent Orange, in the form of preserved fetuses and embryos in jars, which the hospital keeps in a special place called the “reference room”.

Not only the World Health Organization and the United Nations have noticed the continuing horros of Agent Orange: Even the Vietnamese Red Cross recognized that those children born near sites where the substance was sprayed have much higher than normal rates of developing cancer. The United States government is also aware of the issue, but is currently do nothing to help solve it. When one thinks about it, isn’t it the moral obligation of the U.S to help fix the problem, since, after all, the U.S is the one that caused it in the first place? If the U.S is going to help, they need to start fixing the problem now; According to Dr. Michael Skiner, a professor and biologist at Washing State University, “[T]he effects of dioxin can last for generations”.


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