Herbicide Use in Vietnam


I thought you might find this interesting.

Document is available here for viewing or download.


Not a surprise. Back then we were sure that DDT was safe to use and that automobiles didn't need seat belts. Doctors promoted cigarettes as healthy and an aid to calm nerves and to improve digestion. Drunk drivers were given a ride home by the police and powerful amphetamines (since banned from the market) were handed out to patients for weight loss.

Beyond that, in a purely technical fashion, Alvin Young was correct.

If you read all the history, rather than choosing bits and pieces that support your wild theories, you find:

2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T), a synthetic auxin, is a chlorophenoxy acetic acid herbicide used to defoliate broad-leafed plants. It was developed in the late 1940s and was widely used in the agricultural industry until being phased out, starting in the late 1970s due to toxicity concerns. Agent Orange, a defoliant used by the U.S. in the Vietnam War, was equal parts 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D.

2,4,5-T itself is of only moderate toxicity, with oral LD50 of 389 mg/kg in mice and 500 mg/kg in rats. However, the manufacturing process for 2,4,5-T contaminates this chemical with trace amounts of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). TCDD is reported to be extremely toxic to humans. With proper temperature control during production of 2,4,5-T, TCDD levels can be held to about .005 ppm. Before the TCDD risk was well-understood, early production facilities lacked proper temperature controls and individual batches tested later were found to have as much as 60 ppm of TCDD.

In 1970, the United States Department of Agriculture halted the use of 2,4,5-T on all food crops except rice, and in 1985, the EPA terminated all remaining uses in the US of this herbicide. The international trade of 2,4,5-T is restricted by the Rotterdam Convention. 2,4,5-T has since largely been replaced by dicamba and triclopyr.

Apart from agricultural uses, 2,4,5-T was also a major ingredient in Agent Orange, a herbicide blend used by the U.S. military in Vietnam between January 1965 and April 1970 as a defoliant. Because of TCDD contamination in the 2,4,5-T component, it has been blamed for serious illnesses in many veterans who were exposed to it. Agent Orange often had much higher levels of TCDD than 2,4,5-T used in the US.


Times change and the scientists who were addressing the use of herbicides in Vietnam and elsewhere made mistakes not unlike those scientists who thought that giving every soldier a few cigarettes in their K-Rations was a good idea. You may recall that Chevrolet and Ford spent a whole lot of money arguing against the mandatory installation and use of seat belts because it was too expensive and American drivers wouldn't use them.

I believe that the Alvin Young collections is one of the most important sets of documents available today regarding the history of Agent Orange.


You continue to try to convince me that Alvin Young was/is evil and there is a giant conspiracy afoot to keep all these things secret. Your emails read like this;

“Jim, check it out for yourself. Or better yet put the info on your web site and see what some other Vets have to say! Alvin Young has spent his whole life working for and being paid by the side that has and will have to spend billions to the veterans who have suffered because of the cover up. And the cover up continues. If you notice the pictures of him working he has on protective gear. We never had any gear provided to us. I give up, if that’s not enough info for you to see the light nothing will be. Are you one of those government spies?”

Yeah, OK...you got me. I’m one of those government spies. We’re everywhere. We’re all spying on you because your life and your activities are that important and that interesting to us. Besides, we don’t have much else to do since we’ve solved the problems of the economy, the borders, those pesky terrorists, poverty and so on. Now the focus is on you.

Your rants about the Alvin Young Collection are regularly fired off to 20 or more people who appear to have mixed reactions about why you're doing this.

The observations you make, like; "If you notice the pictures of him working he has on protective gear", are without merit. You fail to note that the picture was taken in 1969. By then it was recognized that dioxin was potentially dangerous and researchers had started to take appropriate precautions. By April of 1970 use of Agent Orange in Vietnam had ceased.


I'm not defending the mistakes made by our government. There were many errors made during the Vietnam era and Agent Orange was one of them. The lasting damage of dioxin on Americans and the Vietnamese people is a harsh lesson about the realities of war and I hope that humankind would learn some lessons from it for the future.

While I don't defend the wrongful use of dioxin, I also don't support your conspiracy theories and I sure don't believe you when you tell me Alvin Young sold out to the giant petrochemical companies to make a buck. Your tales of hidden secret documents and a continuing plot of the government to hide the effects of Agent Orange makes no sense in the face of the information available on the Internet and elsewhere.

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki has recently made a bold move to add 3 new conditions to the "presumptive list". Is it too little, too late? Of course it is. Should our government have moved swiftly and surely from the 1970s until today to provide fair and adequate compensation to all people harmed by dioxin...including the Vietnamese? Yes, certainly.

The reality is that no government moves at anything more than a snail's pace. No business entity, and our federal government is nothing more than a large corporation, wants to air its mistakes in public and will try to minimize financial damages when it can. If that shocks you, you’re hopelessly naive.

That doesn't make what happened with dioxin right. It is the reality. I personally know a lot of Vietnam veterans who were grievously harmed by the exposure to Agent Orange and I see that our government is reacting positively to caring for them.

Ranting, promoting conspiracy theories and overall doing what you can to spread and sow the seeds of mistrust in our government based on false accusations and warped interpretations of history causes much the same harm to America as any errant use of chemicals in war.

You're either on the side of the truth or you're against it. I'm going to stay on my path of telling my veteran brothers and sisters the facts as I know them without any personal anti-government spin. I know that's the way we teach future generations to avoid our mistakes.