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(AP) The United States government has doubled its funding for dealing with the environmental and health consequences of its wartime use in Vietnam of the toxic herbicide Agent Orange, the embassy said Friday.
President Barack Obama recently signed a bill increasing the funding from $3 million to $6 million, embassy officials said. Most of the money is being used in Danang, where U.S. troops used to mix and store Agent Orange at an Air Force base before loading it onto planes.
During the Vietnam war, which ended in 1975, the U.S. sprayed more than 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides across the country to strip Vietnamese guerrillas of ground cover and kill their crops.
Agent Orange contains dioxin, a highly toxic substance that remains in soil and sediment for years and poses a serious health threat to anyone who touches it.
Vietnam believes as many as 4 million people have suffered serious health problems from the herbicide, such as cancer, spina bifida and other birth defects. The U.S. says the actual number is probably far lower and that further scientific study is needed to understand the health impact. The U.S. and Vietnam only began working together in 2007 to address the consequences of Agent Orange after years of disagreement.
Agent Orange is the code name for an herbicide and defoliant used by the U.S. military in its Herbicidal Warfare program during the Vietnam War, when an estimated 21,136,000 gal. (80 000 m³) of Agent Orange were sprayed across South Vietnam. 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, resulting in 400,000 deaths and disabilities, and 500,000 children born with birth defects.
From 1961 to 1971, Agent Orange was by far the most widely used of the so-called "Rainbow Herbicides" employed in the Herbicidal Warfare program. During the production of Agent Orange (as well as Agents Purple, Pink, and Green) dioxins were produced as a contaminant, which have caused health problems for those exposed during the Vietnam War. Agents Blue and White were part of the same program but did not contain dioxins.