Agent Orange: Know the Facts

Posted by Allison Sullivan on Dec 15, 2020 10:52:20 AM

At Bluestein Attorneys, we've worked with military servicemembers of all stripes — those just back from a new deployment, vets who served during the first Gulf War, Korean war veterans, Vietnam veterans... the list goes on. While many Vietnam veterans have heard about the herbicide Agent Orange and its use during their time serving overseas, did you know Korean war vets may also have been exposed? The long-term effects of Agent Orange have only recently been acknowledged and truly understood, and it's important for military veterans who are dealing with hard-to-pinpoint physical issues to know whether or not they may have been exposed during their time in service.

Here are a few facts about Agent Orange that you may not have heard:

Agent Orange Isn't Just One Chemical

While we often refer to Agent Orange as if it is made of a single harmful ingredient, it's actually a blend of several different herbicides. Commonly known as "tactical herbicides", Agent Orange and the other chemical blends were developed and manufactured by the government specifically for use in deforestation and foliage destruction, in order to reduce or eliminate available hiding places for enemy combatants in areas that were often heavily forested or hard to navigate.

Its most active ingredients include 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). The last ingredient, TCDD, is a dioxin that is considered an "unwanted byproduct" of herbicides and is a known air pollutant that is classified as a carcinogen by the EPA. 

The 'upside' to Agent Orange, as much as there is one, is that airborne particles dissolve and disappear very quickly and after a couple of days, the overall atmosphere in the area subject to it will be clear. However, the chemical will linger on any plant matter it lands on.

It Can Cause Serious Long-Term Problems

The Veterans Administration has acknowledged that certain cancers and other diseases can be exacerbated or may even be caused by exposure to Agent Orange during the veteran's time in service. A few of these ailments include:

  • Chronic B-Cell Leukemias
  • Hodgkin's Disease
  • Soft Tissue Sarcomas
  • Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
  • ... and many more (a more thorough list can be found here.
  • Certain birth defects in children have been associated with exposure of Vietnam and Korean war veterans.

If you served in the Vietnam or Korean wars (or are the survivor of a veteran who served) and exposure to Agent Orange was a factor, you may be eligible for certain benefits.

Even If You Never Set Foot in Vietnam, You May Have Been Exposed

What is less widely known about Agent Orange is that its effects have been noticed in veterans who did not actually physically serve in Vietnam, but even in some who were located in boats offshore or on certain military bases where the chemical agent was housed or tested. You can find a list of exposure locations here. Check to see if you (or your spouse) was located in any of these areas, as you may be able to claim exposure benefits if you are suffering from the diseases we spoke of above.

Think You Were Exposed? Speak With Someone Right Away.

Many of the effects of TCDD and other dioxins involve cancers or other diseases that only appear years or even decades after initial exposure. You may never have considered before that your issues with leukemia or diabetes could be caused by your time in service, but it's important nonetheless to have this important conversation. Speak with a legal representative as soon as possible to learn about your options.

At Bluestein Attorneys, our attorneys who often work with veterans are happy to sit down with you and look at your time in service, possible exposure to Agent Orange, and help you decide what next step is right for you and your family. Give us a call at (803) 779-7599 or request your free consultation online today!

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Topics: Veterans Affairs