As if the effects of Agent Orange haven’t been horrific enough for those who served in Vietnam, now we find that residue in the airplanes used to spray the jungle defoliant may have affected Air Force personnel in the decade following the Vietnam War.
The C-123 planes used for spraying had been declared safe and were reassigned to reserve units for medical and cargo transport and training exercises. The thinking at the time was that the chemical residue in the planes had solidified and was unlikely to pose a threat to anyone.
Although the VA denied there was any problem, The Institute of Medicine has been investigating whether Agent Orange residue could continue to pose a health threat to those who flew in these planes. The final verdict is that dioxin – the toxic component in Agent Orange – “does not simply remain on surfaces, but instead slowly turns into a gas that can attach to dust particles and be redeposited.”
Between 1,500 and 2,100 individuals may have been exposed. Some have suffered repeated, long-term exposure and have been trying for years to get the VA to provide compensation. Hopefully that will be easier going now.