U.S. Ups Funds For Agent Orange Cleanup

US Air Force C-123 plane sprays Agent Orange defoliant over South Vietnam, B&W photo. AP (file)

The United States government has doubled its funding for dealing with the environmental and health consequences of its wartime use in Vietnam of the toxic herbicide Agent Orange, the embassy said Friday.

President Barack Obama recently signed a bill increasing the funding from $3 million to $6 million, embassy officials said. Most of the money is being used in Danang, where U.S. troops used to mix and store Agent Orange at an Air Force base before loading it onto planes.

During the Vietnam war, which ended in 1975, the U.S. sprayed more than 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides across the country to strip Vietnamese guerrillas of ground cover and kill their crops.

Agent Orange contains dioxin, a highly toxic substance that remains in soil and sediment for years and poses a serious health threat to anyone who touches it.

Vietnam believes as many as 4 million people have suffered serious health problems from the herbicide, such as cancer, spina bifida and other birth defects. The U.S. says the actual number is probably far lower and that further scientific study is needed to understand the health impact. The U.S. and Vietnam only began working together in 2007 to address the consequences of Agent Orange after years of disagreement.

The embassy said in a statement that one third of the $6 million is being used for health programs to serve people in the Danang area. The rest will be used to remove dioxin from the soil and sediment near Danang airport.

The first $3 million in U.S. funds was allocated during the administration of George W. Bush. Some of that money was used to contain dioxin at the Danang site to prevent it getting into the water supply.

Friday's People's Army newspaper quoted Lai Minh Hien, a Vietnamese environmental official in charge of Agent Orange issues, as saying that Vietnam needs additional 1 trillion dong ($57 million) to clean up dioxin in Danang as well as at former U.S. air bases in Bien Hoa and Phu Cat.
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