It is believed that Vietnam has a high rate of deformities due to dioxin, or "agent orange", an extremely toxic chemical used by the USA during the "Vietnam War".

Most of these children come from poor rural areas where the chemical still remains in the fertile soil.




"The use of Agent Orange (named after the orange stripes on the canisters that contained one of the most toxic forms of dioxin) began in 1962 when President John F. Kennedy and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, encouraged by President Diem, sought radical solutions to dealing with Viet Cong guerrillas. Their aim was to destroy crops and defoliate forest in order to deprive the Viet Cong of both their food supply and hideouts. By 1967, 1.5 million acres were being doused annually, ravaging rubber and coconut plantations as well as half the Mekong Delta's mangrove forest, and inadvertently hitting fruit orchards due to wind drift and vaporization. In total, an estimated 20 million gallons of the defoliant were sprayed from planes, helicopters, or armored cars.

Side-effects Laboratory studies made in 1969 established a link between Agent Orange and birth defects, and two years later the use of chemical defoliants was stopped. But it was too late. By then some 5 million acres of forest had defoliated, half of which remains unrestored today. Dioxin accumulated from repeated spraying entered the ecosystem of Vietnam, while tens of thousand of troops on both sides had been exposed to the chemical. Not least, Vietnamese birth defects are now double those of neighboring countries. Scientific surveys, continue to uncover side-effects, the latest (1996) documenting the high proportion of children with spina bifida born to Vietnam veterans.

Other spinoffs of Agent Orange include nerve and urological disorders, skin diseases, and soft-tissue cancers. In 1984 a $240 million settlement was made to Agent Orange victims in the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada (excluding South Korea, the second-largest foreign contingent), but many are still fearful of long-term reproduction in their children."

(above excerpts from page 204, "Fodor's: Exploring Vietnam" Copyright, 1998)



 
We came across this child in a Cambodian village in the Mekong Delta.

His parents probably ingested dioxin indirectly from a daily diet of fruits and vegetables grown in this region.
The toddler is missing several toes, but the effects are mainly cosmetic.

He is fortunate that it doesn't affect his basic motor skills and actually moves around quite well.


 
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