Vietnam: Agent Orange 40 Years Later

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A boy poses for a photograph at a center for children affected by dioxin exposure in Da Nang, Vietnam. The Da Nang Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin says that more than 1,400 children around the city have been affected by dioxin, a legacy of the U.S. military's use of Agent Orange and other herbicides during the Vietnam War more than 40 years ago. About 200 children attend three centers operated by the group, which aims to teach the children how to read and write, sew clothes and make handicrafts. For many of them, the initial struggle is simply learning how to interact with other people, says Phan Thanh Tien, the association's president. "In the beginning, they don't want to talk, they don't want to eat. It usually takes 6 to 8 months before they make friends and begin to act like normal children." The Vietnam Red Cross estimates that 3 million Vietnamese suffer from illnesses related to dioxin exposure, including at least 150,000 people born with severe birth defects since the end of the war. The U.S. government is paying to clean up dioxin-contaminated soil at the Da Nang airport, which served as a major U.S. base during the conflict. But the U.S. government still denies that dioxin is to blame for widespread health problems in Vietnam and has never provided any money specifically to help the country's Agent Orange victims. May 28, 2012.