Major Duc Phang was exposed to dioxin-contaminated agent orange.
Agent Orange is an herbicide and defoliant chemical. It is widely known for its use by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. It was a mixture of equal parts of two herbicides, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. In addition to its damaging environmental effects, the chemical has caused major health problems for many individuals who were exposed.
Up to 4 million people in Vietnam were exposed to the defoliant, with around 1 million now suffering serious health issues. The chemical is capable of damaging genes, resulting in deformities among offspring of exposed victims. The U.S. government has documented higher cases of leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as other various kinds of cancer in exposed veterans. Agent Orange also caused enormous environmental damage in Vietnam. Over 3,100,000 hectares (31,000 km2 or 11,969 mi2) of forestwere defoliated. Defoliants eroded tree cover and seedling forest stock, making reforestation difficult in numerous areas. Animal species diversity sharply reduced in contrast with unsprayed areas.
The aftermath of the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam resulted in massive legal consequences. The United Nationsratified United Nations General Assembly Resolution 31/72 and the Environmental Modification Convention. Lawsuits filed on behalf of veterans as well as Vietnamese veterans sought compensation for damages.
Agent Orange was to a lesser extent used outside Vietnam. Some countries, such as Canada, saw testing, while other countries, such as Brazil, used the herbicide to clear out sections of land for agriculture. Land in Laos and Cambodia was sprayed with Agent Orange because forests on the border with Vietnam were used by the Vietcong.