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August 17, 1984

Vietnam and Birth Defects

Author Affiliations

American Medical Association Chicago

JAMA. 1984;252(7):936-937. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350070054025

Between 1962 and 1971, US military forces sprayed herbicides over 3.5 million acres of jungle in Vietnam.1 The herbicides were identified by the color bandings on their containers (green, orange, purple, white, pink, and blue). They were used for defoliation, crop destruction, and to clear vegetation around military installations. The designation "Operation Ranch Hand" was used for the aerial dispersal of these herbicides from fixed-wing aircraft. Small quantities also were sprayed from helicopters and riverboats and by hand-held applicators. Agent Orange was the most widely used of these herbicides; more than 100 million pounds of the substance was sprayed in Vietnam during a ten-year period.1

Agent Orange is a 50:50 mixture of the butyl esters of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T). Both 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T have been used extensively in the United States for more than 30 years as agricultural herbicides in the control of broadleaf