Monday, December 14, 2020

Agent Blue haunts Vietnam War vets


from Paul Kasper via Paul Sutton

Add one more primary color to the poisonous palette of Vietnam: Agent Blue.

Agent Orange, its toxic defoliant cousin, has become well known in the US for its lethal effects on American troops who served in the war 1965-75 – and on their offspring.

Agent Blue, an arsenic-based herbicide, is becoming known because it has no half-life – in other words, it lasts forever in soil, sediments, rivers, canals and public water supplies.

Once it is in the environment, its toxicity is magnified as it moves up the food chain, slowly killing and disabling humans as it accumulates in the body.

Kenneth Olson, professor emeritus of soil science at the University of Illinois and a US Army Vietnam-era veteran, has studied and published on the soils and sediments of South Vietnam, the roles they played in Vietnam warfare and the legacies left behind.

Olson’s recently released paper, “The Fate of Agent Blue, the Arsenic Based Herbicide Used in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War,” is co-authored with Larry Cihacek, also a US Army veteran, who is professor of soil science at North Dakota State University. It is their most recent in a series of papers on Vietnam soils and sediments and herbicide persistence in the environment.

“Agent Blue was sprayed on 100,000 hectares (one hectare is about 2.5 acres) of mangrove forests and about 300,000 hectares of rice paddies just before rice harvest time,” Olson said. That “resulted in destroying the standing crop and contaminated soils and water sediments with arsenic.”


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