This week 40 years ago, peace finally arrived in Vietnam. A long and bloody war came to an end, but not for all. Still today, thousands of Vietnamese, American and allied soldiers – and their families – suffer from Agent Orange exposure. The deadliest toxic ever invented by man.
”It was a coincidence which gave me the idea to write a letter to the President of the United States. I googled him one day and stumbled on a public letter, which he had written to his daughters during his election campaign. He said that he had entered politics to make the world a better place for his daughters – actually all daughters on this earth.
So I thought I would tell him: “I am right here in Vietnam. We are a lot of daughters who could use your help.”
Hoan never got a reply from the White House.
“I don’t mind. I know he is very busy”, Hoan says with another burst of shy laughter, tapping the table with the fingers of her one hand which she was born with some 20 years ago in Da Lat.
Hoan is one of more than 400.000 Vietnamese, who have been officially registered as 2nd generation Agent Orange Victims in Vietnam. Agent Orange was a dioxin contaminated defoliant used massively by the US Army and Airforce during the war in Vietnam.
Approximately 72 million liters of Agent Orange were sprayed over Southern and Central Vietnam in the years 1962-1971. The exposure to Agent Orange is widely believed to have caused a continued disaster for thousands of Vietnamese as well as US and Allied soldiers, who fought in the contaminated areas.
In the US alone more than 40.000 Vietnam veterans claim that they and their families are victims of dioxin related diseases. Dioxin, or 2,3,7,8 Tetrachlorodbenzodioxin, is thought to be the strongest ever synthetic poison, so far developed.
For more than 50 years, scientific researchers have suspected that dioxin may cause a broad range of cancers, other very serious diseases and birth defects. Since 1978, dioxin contaminated pesticides have been banned in the US, but in previous years they have been used extensively around the globe for agricultural as well as military purposes.
In Vietnam they were used by the US forces in an unprecedented scale and with the strongest concentrations ever. This went on for years in spite of strong concerns, voiced by the scientists who had developed the pesticides for use on a much more limited scale.
The never ending story
Thomas Bo Pedersen var diplomat i den danske udenrigstjeneste 1994-2006 og har siden beskæftiget sig med Vietnam. Han bor i hovedstaden Hanoi, hvor han leder det danske firma Mascots afdeling i landet.