Agent Provocateur

Chemical cleanup


The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will be spending more than $40 million to clean up the soil at Danang Airport in Vietnam. The Vietnamese government identifies the airport as a "hot spot," an area with unusually high levels of dioxins. 

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. Air Force sprayed the country's jungles with defoliants to eliminate hiding places for the Viet Cong. One of the most commonly used defoliants was an herbicide-hormone mixture known as Agent Orange.

Some batches of Agent Orange, which was manufactured for the U.S. military by the companies Monsanto and Dow, contained extremely toxic dioxins because of slight temperature deviations in the process used to create the herbicide. The Air Force dropped up to 20 million gallons of Agent Orange as part of its Operation Ranch Hand, and the Vietnamese government says up to 400,000 people were killed or injured and 500,000 children may have been born with defects as a result of the chemical spraying.

Vietnam has asked America for help in cleaning up the environmental damage from Agent Orange before. USAID says it has "been collaborating [with the government of Vietnam] on issues related to Agent Orange since 2000," and U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear claimed while announcing this project that his embassy had been working with "the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment's Office 33 since its establishment in 1999 to coordinate Vietnam's policies and programs on Agent Orange." But the decontamination project at the Danang Airport is the first time actual American dollars have been spent on the effort.