According to studies in Vietnam and abroad, from 1961 to 1971 the US army sprayed nearly 80 million liters of herbicides over one fourth of southern Vietnam, approximately 3 million ha. 61% of the volume was Agent Orange, which contained 366 kg dioxin.
The highly toxic defoliant has had a long-term impact on the local environment and people’s health.
Phu Cat, Da Nang, and Bien Hoa airports are the 3 most dioxin-contaminated areas. Dioxin concentration in mud there is hundreds to thousands times higher than the allowed level.
The Vietnamese government has promulgated national plans of action to deal with the aftermaths of toxic chemicals used by the US during the war in Vietnam. It has invested a great deal in surveys, research projects, and remedy projects.
In 2015 aided by the Global Environment Fund (GEF), Vietnam completed construction of a dioxin dumping site in Phu Cat airport in the central province of Binh Dinh and treated more than 7,500 cubic meters of soil.
As a result, Phu Cat is excluded from the list of dioxin hotspots in Vietnam that need urgent decontamination.
From August 2012 to last November, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense cleaned up nearly 14 ha of dioxin contaminated land in Da Nang airport. The project cost 110 million USD.
USAID has worked with Vietnam’s Air Defense Force on a 390 million USD dioxin remediation project in Bien Hoa airport over the next decade. Bien Hoa is the most dioxin-contaminated area in Vietnam with half a million cubic meters of soil affected.
Deputy Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh said major progress has been made. He said, “First, remediation serves socio-economic development and overcome the consequences of dioxin in humans and nature. Second, it contributes to Vietnam-US relations. Both countries have taken specific actions to address a specific problem: dioxin. Third, Vietnam has learned lessons and technologies to attain the best results in the shortest time and at an affordable cost.”
Joint efforts to ease Agent Orange pain
4.8 million Vietnamese were exposed to Agent Orange/dioxin and 3 million were victims of the chemical. Agent Orange/dioxin’s lingering effects have poisoned 4 generations. Allowances, rehabilitation, and healthcare for the victims have been in place.
Nguyen Van Rinh, Chairman of the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/dioxin, said, “We have built about 4 or 5 detox spa centers. If steps are taken properly, dioxin in a human body will be detoxified.”
Fundraisings have been carried out to build vocational training centers and houses for Agent Orange/dioxin victims. Foreign countries and international organizations have provided humanitarian aid to them.
Do Thi Nhai in Thanh That district, Hanoi, whose daughter suffers from the consequences of dioxin exposure, said, “We are moved and grateful to the care of the Party and State. This is a source of encouragement for me to bring up my daughter despite hardships.”
August 10 is observed as Day for Agent Orange/dioxin victims in Vietnam.