The Effects of Agent Orange: Researched Essay

Adriana Payano

Cover Letter  

The research of Agent Orange has continued to leave me curious. It’s a historical event that I’ve seen that never gets talked about in schools, at least in my experience. I learned about it through social media. It may sound ridiculous, but it led me to learn more about the effects of Agent Orange as I researched more. Learning about such a broad subject has made myself and others realize what schools aren’t teaching us. It could be because of the brutality of it or simply not trying to make the U.S. military look bad. There could be many reasons, but no one will know why. My interest in the history of Agent Orange has always been there. It’s the one historical moment that I will never want to stop learning about. As the years go by, I believe there’s always something more about it. 

This essay does not have a specific target audience. I wanted more to educate people about it since many have not heard a word about Agent Orange. Although there are many sources on Agent Orange, I found it hard to find credible sources. The majority of sources talked about the exact same thing, which mainly were how Agent Orange was made and why it was bad. Sometimes it was frustrating. I had to skim articles and leave some behind because it was too similar to another. But throughout this assignment, I learned from the Course Learning Outcomes to locate research sources. Doing a research essay is not as easy as someone may think. Looking for research sources requires patience and your mind to be focused rather than rushed.  

The Effects of Agent Orange 

A plant killing herbicide, Agent Orange, was created during the Vietnam War. Agent Orange was used by the U.S. military against Vietnamese soldiers and sprayed over the land during 1962-1971. It was meant to remove leaves from trees in forests to expose the hiding Vietnamese soldiers and kill off crops that was a source of food to them. Even though it was targeting the Vietnamese soldiers, it negatively impacted civilians and American soldiers as well and caused health issues while continuing to poison today’s soil.  

The war has been over for a long time. But, in Phan Xuan Dung’s article “Agent Orange in Vietnam: lingering pain and injustice,” there are claims that the Vietnamese veterans will never forget it even though they’ve put the war behind them. Dung includes the continuing pain that the veterans are living with and adding on that children are suffering as well. Its stated, “Decades after the spraying stopped, Agent Orange continues to inflict pain on presumable millions of people.” (Dung, 2022) There’s a sense of seeking empathy from readers in this sentence. Also, it’s informational as it begins to give a glimpse into the suffering of the effects of Agent Orange. The glimpse of the suffering goes into a deeper dive. It’s included that chronic illnesses are contracted due to Agent Orange which include, but are not limited to, cancer and diabetes. It’s only imaginable how aggressive these illnesses can get from this chemical. The lasting effects has led up to Vietnam claiming over 4 billion victims of Agent Orange. 

The Vietnam War happened decades ago but it still has plenty of effects on veterans. Going into specifics, James Sklenar from the U.S. Marine Corps still lives with these effects. He described his experience in an interview with Brooke Reilly from Spectrum News. With Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, Sklenar used “hell” to describe his service. The huge impact Agent Orange has had on anyone that comes in contact with it is proven when Reilly stated, “Sklenar said he’s had two brushes with cancer.” (Reilly, 2022) Instead of leaving it at that, Reilly goes more in depth with Sklenar’s experiences after the use of Agent Orange. It’s stated that Sklenar was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma then had part of his right lung removed in 1994. The list goes on with the surgeries and diagnoses that Sklenar has undergone. It’s a lifetime of suffering. Even though Sklenar has his own suffering and was a U.S. Marine Corp, he understands the effects Agent Orange had on the Vietnamese as well. He told Reilly that Vietnam veterans are still dying to this day due to the effects of Agent Orange. Throughout the article, Reilly appears to write it in a way to make readers take a moral stand on how wrong the use of Agent Orange was. Readers could potentially feel empathy knowing about the health struggles that Sklenar went through. Aside from feeling empathy and taking a moral stand, it’s also meant to grasp at reader’s attention to make them want to know more. 

It’s only imaginable of the significant damage and symptoms Agent Orange can do to the human body. Many people are uneducated about Agent Orange itself. Knowing the symptoms themselves can be complex and Agent Orange exposure will be the last thing a person thinks of. To be sure the public is educated on the effects of Agent Orange, the Cleveland Clinic created an article specifically about it. There has been “14 diseased associated with Agent Orange exposure, but over time, medical research found several additional conditions that affected people who had exposure to Agent Orange.” (Cleveland Clinic, 2023) They go onto listing conditions that were caused by Agent Orange which include bladder cancer, B-cell leukemia, severe birth defects, etc. The chance of survival depends on the severity of the illness and if it can respond to treatment. Even if people do survive with treatment, they aren’t completely clear from getting other illnesses. The purpose of listing these conditions is to educate curious readers and emphasize the severity of exposure to Agent Orange. In any unlikely case, it could potentially help people figure out the cause of certain diseases in others. 

Agent Orange has widely been known as the cause of illnesses in veterans and the civilians of Vietnam. But Blake Stilwell from says Agent Orange isn’t just about that. Stilwell questions the United States’ “legal liability” for the use of Agent Orange and how to clean up the damage it caused. It can be thought that Agent Orange could be cleaned up quickly. But Stilwell stated the opposite. “The chemical contaminate in Agent Orange can have a half-life of up to 20 years, but when buried or leached below the soil surface or in river sediment, it can remain up to 100 years of more.” (Stilwell, 2023) Agent Orange was sprayed decades ago and could still be buried in Vietnam. The issue with Agent Orange still being buried there could mean that the effects of it will look like it’s never ending. Stilwell seemed to write this to steer people away from the one idea of Agent Orange causing health issues to veterans during the war. This can also open their minds to the effects it can have on future generations until Agent Orange’s “life” ends. 

Agent Orange was understandably used as a military tactic used by the U.S. military to win a war. But morally, it seemed like the only focus was beating the Vietnamese soldiers. The main aspect that was not considered was Vietnamese civilians. Agent Orange killed off their crops as well, not just the food that was feeding Vietnamese soldiers. The use of Agent Orange was extensive and extremely dangerous. Due to this war and the need to win, innocent Vietnamese civilians have no choice but to live with the devastating effects of Agent Orange. Future generations will possibly have some sort of impact after the research of Agent Orange being able to last up to 100 years in soil or river sediments. 

Works Cited: 

“Agent Orange in Vietnam: lingering pain and injustice.” Phan Xuan Dung, New Mandela, 21 Nov. 2022, 

“Agent Orange still haunts Vietnam veterans.” Brooke Reilly, Spectrum News, 10 Aug. 2022, 

“Agent Orange Effects.” Cleveland Clinic, 10 Feb. 2023, 

“Why the US Used Agent Orange in Vietnam and What Makes It So Deadly.” Blake Stilwell,, 1 Aug. 2022, 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *