Agent Orange, also known as Herbicide Orange, was a one-to-one combination of two phenoxyl compounds: 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, commonly referred to as 2,4-D, and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid, known as 2,4,5-T. These compounds contain varying amounts of the elements carbon, hydrogen, chlorine and oxygen.
Agent Orange produced during the 1970s was contaminated by a toxic dioxin compound known as 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin, generally referred to as TCDD. The chemical companies that produced the mixture during this era claim that they were unaware of the contamination of their product.
The TCDD present in Agent Orange caused significant health problems when the U.S. military used the herbicide during the Vietnam War as a defoliant in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It is estimated that 24 percent of the land in south Vietnam was covered by 11.4 million gallons of the toxic herbicide, including approximately 3,181 villages. Roughly 5 million acres of forest land, as well as 500,000 acres of cropland, were environmentally devastated as a result of spraying operations.
Civilians and military personnel from both sides of the conflict were affected by the TCDD content of Agent Orange. Dioxin is a persistent organic pollutant that has a half-life in the human body of 11 to 15 years. It is a known carcinogen also responsible for causing negative endocrine, reproductive and developmental effects.