Agent Orange: The Continuing Debate

July 6, 1984

Report Outline
Effects on Health
Government's Role
Impact in Vietnam
Special Focus

Effects on Health

Exposure and Serious Veteran's Illnesses

The United States stopped spraying the defoliant Agent Orange in Vietnam in 1970. Yet today, 14 years later, bitter controversy still rages over whether Agent Orange and other dioxin-contaminated herbicides used in Vietnam are responsible for any of the severe health problems that afflict thousands of veterans who served there.

The controversy persists despite an out-of-court settlement May 7 in which the manufacturers of Agent Orange agreed to set up a $180 million fund to pay claims to veterans and their children for health problems caused by Agent Orange. Despite the settlement, the companies, the Veterans Administration and other government health officials say it has yet to be proved that Agent Orange caused any health problems—with the exception of chloracne, a disfiguring skin condition.

“The bulk of the scientific evidence does not indicate that Agent Orange could, would or did cause the health effects that are being claimed,” said Garry Hamlin, a spokesman for Dow Chemical Co. of Midland, Mich. “Some veterans are suffering, as are members of their families,” said Richard J. Mahoney, president and chief executive officer of Monsanto Co. “Their exposure, emotional tensions and risks were many and unusual in the Vietnam conflict. No reasonable person could remain unmoved by what we've all seen and read, but we unequivocally maintain that there is no credible scientific evidence to suggest that their medical problems are caused by dioxin [in Agent Orange].” The Veterans Administration agrees with that assessment.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Vietnam War
Feb. 18, 2000  Legacy of the Vietnam War
Dec. 03, 1993  U.S.-Vietnam Relations
Mar. 18, 1988  Vietnam: Unified, Independent and Poor
Jul. 06, 1984  Agent Orange: The Continuing Debate
Nov. 04, 1983  MIAs: Decade of Frustration
Mar. 11, 1983  Vietnam War Reconsidered
Oct. 21, 1977  Vietnam Veterans: Continuing Readjustment
Jan. 18, 1974  Vietnam Aftermath
Feb. 21, 1973  Vietnam Veterans
Jun. 09, 1971  Prospects for Democracy in South Vietnam
May 06, 1970  Cambodia and Laos: the Widening War
Jan. 07, 1970  War Atrocities and the Law
Jul. 02, 1969  Resolution of Conflicts
Apr. 17, 1968  Reconstruction in South Vietnam
Aug. 23, 1967  Political Evolution in South Viet Nam
Jan. 11, 1967  Rural Pacification in South Viet Nam
May 26, 1965  Political Instability in South Viet Nam
Mar. 25, 1964  Neutralization in Southeast Asia
Apr. 17, 1963  Task in South Viet Nam
Jun. 14, 1961  Guerrilla Warfare
May 17, 1961  Threatened Viet Nam
Sep. 23, 1959  Menaced Laos
Regional Political Affairs: East Asia and the Pacific
Veterans' Services