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The BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones reports
"One of the most controversial lagacies of the Vietnam war"
 real 56k

Arnold Schecter, independent American scientist
"Both sides have acknowledged that there is widespread contamination"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 3 July, 2001, 19:57 GMT 20:57 UK
Deal reached on Agent Orange
Vietnam War children thought to be affected by Agent Orange
Vietnam says up to a million people were affected
Hanoi and Washington are to research jointly the effects of the notorious chemical defoliant Agent Orange, which the US armed forces sprayed on Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

The issue has long dogged relations between the former enemies, with Vietnam's authorities alleging that the health of up to a million people has been severely damaged.


Both sides were gratified with the spirit of co-operation and scientific discussion

US embassy statement
When he was in office, former US President Bill Clinton called for more international research into Agent Orange, and Tuesday's breakthrough accord will free up US funds to do just that.

The US Congress has already approved funding for the studies, but the release of that money was contingent on the two sides reaching agreement on how to conduct the research.

Scientists representing the two governments met in the Vietnamese capital and agreed to conduct a study to screen soil for its most dangerous chemical component, dioxin.

There will also be a joint Vietnam-US scientific conference on human health and environmental effects of Agent Orange, tentatively arranged for April 2002 in Vietnam.

Carcinogenic

The Hanoi meeting was the first between the two sides after five days of talks on joint research broke down in Singapore last November.

A statement from the US embassy in Hanoi said both sides were "gratified with the spirit of co-operation and scientific discussion".

Vietnam War USA combat helicopters
US troops sprayed Agent Orange over the Vietnamese jungle
"[They] look forward to future interactions and continued progress in addressing research collaboration on dioxin and related compounds, a scientific issue of importance to both countries," it said.

US troops sprayed millions of gallons of Agent Orange and other defoliants on Vietnam between 1962 and 1971 to deny jungle cover to communist fighters who eventually triumphed in 1975.

The chemicals were contaminated by TCDD, the most dangerous form of dioxin, which is a known carcinogen.

Washington, however, has consistently argued there is no solid scientific proof that Agent Orange caused, as Vietnam and some US veterans say, a wide range of illnesses, including tens of thousands of mental and physical birth defects.

Many US scientists doubt that the problem is that widespread and argue that more research is needed to establish exactly what impact dioxins have on human health.

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See also:

15 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Agent Orange's toxic legacy
29 Mar 00 | Health
Agent Orange link to diabetes
03 Jun 99 | Medical notes
Dioxins
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