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Hoang Dinh Nam / AFP – Getty Images

U.S. construction representatives, diplomats and reporters tour a dioxin-contaminated at Danang airport, a former U.S. air base, during a ceremony of the joint U.S.-Vietnam Dioxin Cleaning Project on Thursday.

By NBC News staff and wire reports

HANOI, Vietnam — Nearly four decades after the end of the Vietnam War, the United States and Vietnam on Thursday began cleaning up the toxic chemical Agent Orange on part of Danang International Airport.

The U.S. military sprayed up to 12 million gallons of the defoliant onto Vietnam’s jungles over a 10-year period during the war, and the question of compensation for the subsequent health problems is a major post-war issue.


Respiratory cancer and birth defects among both Vietnamese and U.S. veterans have been linked to exposure to Agent Orange.

Thursday marked the first time Washington has been involved in cleaning up Agent Orange in Vietnam

The U.S. government is providing $41 million to the project which will reduce the contamination level in 73,000 cubic meters of soil by late 2016, the ruling Vietnam Communist Party’s mouthpiece Nhan Dan daily said.

U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear said at a ceremony at the former American air base at Danang that the project showed that the two countries were “taking the first steps to bury the legacies of our past,” Voice of America (VOA) reported.

PhotoBlog: The legacy of Agent Orange

Col. Jack Jacobs’ journeyed back to the battlefield where his heroism earned him the Medal of Honor to meet the Vietcong commander who attacked his unit during the Vietnam War. NBC’s Chris Jansing reports.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded contracts to two U.S. companies to work on the project along with Vietnam defense ministry officials, the U.S. Embassy said.

 

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