Operation Ranch Hand and Agent Orange – 50 Years Later


By Patricia L Johnson

Agent Orange is a blend of tactical herbicides developed by the United States Department of Defense for use in ‘combat operations’ in Vietnam.

During the period of 1962 to 1971 more than 19 million gallons of various herbicide combinations were sprayed in country, but Agent Orange was the combination used most often.  It was named “Agent Orange” due to the orange stripe on the 55-gallon drums used for storage.  The purpose of the spraying was to remove trees and other dense tropical foliage providing enemy cover under Operation Ranch Hand.

The various agents were known as the Rainbow Herbicides due to the multiple colors as follows:  Agent Pink, Agent Green, Agent Purple, Agent Blue, Agent White and Agent Orange.

Agent Orange contained two active ingredients in equal amounts 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T), which contained traces of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD).

TCDD is the most toxic of the dioxins, and classified as a human carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA].  The TCDD was an unwanted byproduct of herbicide production which was released into the environment by burning waste, diesel exhaust, chemical manufacturing and other processes.

Were you exposed to Agent Orange?

Veterans who served anywhere in Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides.

In addition to locations in Vietnam, some soldiers may have been exposed in the following locations:

  • Along the demilitarized zone in Korea between April 1, 1968 and August 31, 1971
  • On or near the perimeters of Thailand Military Bases between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975
  • Possible exposure due to herbicide tests and storage at military bases in the United States and locations in other countries
  • Possible exposure of crew members to herbicide residue in C-123 planes flown after the Vietnam War

Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange may be eligible for VA disability compensation and health care benefits for the following presumptive diseases associated with exposure to herbicides:

  • AL Amyloidosis
    A rare disease caused when an abnormal protein, amyloid, enters tissues or organs
  • Chronic B-cell Leukemias
    A type of cancer which affects white blood cells
  • Chloracne (or similar acneform disease)
    A skin condition that occurs soon after exposure to chemicals and looks like common forms of acne seen in teenagers. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of exposure to herbicides.
  • Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
    A disease characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting from the body’s inability to respond properly to the hormone insulin
  • Hodgkin’s Disease
    A malignant lymphoma (cancer) characterized by progressive enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, and by progressive anemia
  • Ischemic Heart Disease
    A disease characterized by a reduced supply of blood to the heart, that leads to chest pain
  • Multiple Myeloma
    A cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell in bone marrow
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
    A group of cancers that affect the lymph glands and other lymphatic tissue
  • Parkinson’s Disease
    A progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects muscle movement
  • Peripheral Neuropathy, Acute and Subacute
    A nervous system condition that causes numbness, tingling, and motor weakness. Currently, it must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of herbicide exposure and resolve within two years. VA proposed on Aug. 10, 2012, to replace “acute and subacute” with “early-onset” and eliminate the requirement that symptoms resolve within two years.
  • Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
    A disorder characterized by liver dysfunction and by thinning and blistering of the skin in sun-exposed areas. Under VA’s rating regulations, it must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of exposure to herbicides.
  • Prostate Cancer
    Cancer of the prostate; one of the most common cancers among men
  • Respiratory Cancers (includes lung cancer)
    Cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus
  • Soft Tissue Sarcomas (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
    A group of different types of cancers in body tissues such as muscle, fat, blood and lymph vessels, and connective tissues

If you have any of the above diseases and believe you were exposed to Agent Orange please be sure to call one of the numbers listed at the top of the page for assistance.


© 2013 Patricia L Johnson

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