Myth: The use of defoliants destroyed 70% of the crops in the South, poisoned the ground in Viet Nam for decades and caused an enormous increase in birth defects throughout the country.

Fact: About 24% of South Vietnam was sprayed. Of that, 500,000 acres of crops were sprayed (about 5% of the total agricultural land), mostly with Agent Blue. Vietnam's birth defect rate is in the middle of the 193 countries tracked by the March of Dimes.

  • Agent Orange contained minute levels of dioxin, approximately 13 parts per trillion.
  • Dioxin is a byproduct of combustion, both natural and industrial.
  • Agent Orange was sprayed at three gallons per acre that was the equivalent of .009 of an ounce per square foot.
  • When sprayed on dense jungle foliage, less that 6 percent ever reached the ground.
  • Ground troops typically did not enter a sprayed area until four to six weeks after being sprayed.
  • Most Agent Orange contained .0002 of 1 percent of dioxin.
  • Scientific research has shown that dioxin degrades in sunlight after 48 to 72 hours; therefore, troops exposure to dioxin was infinitesimal.
  • A long term study of veterans who were involved in spraying and exposed to large amounts of dioxin found increased risks of circulatory disease, diabetes and cancer but no increase in birth defects.
  • A 25 year study of Italians exposed to high levels of dioxin found no effect on births with the possible exeption of slightly lower birth weights and a slight increase in pre-term deliveries.
  • The same study found an increase in cancer mortality, but the exposure rates were significantly higher than those in Vietnam.
  • According to the American Cancer Society, studies "have not found an increase in soft tissue sarcomas" or any other cancers in veterans exposed to Agent Orange or in their children.

Confirming Evidence

Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Vietnam Veterans' Risks for Fathering Babies with Birth Defects

Air Force Health Study (Project RANCH HAND II). An Epidemiologic Investigation of Health Effects in Air Force Personnel Following Exposure to Herbicides. Baseline Morbidity Study Results

Agent Orange and Birth Defects

Ranch Hand Advisory Committee - Summary of Findings

Dioxins - National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Mortality in a Population Exposed to Dioxin after the Seveso, Italy, Accident in 1976: 25 Years of Follow-Up

Maternal serum dioxin levels and birth outcomes in women of Seveso, Italy

Agent Orange and Cancer

Agent Orange Factsheet

Statistics About the Vietnam War