Agent Orange is a herbicide and defoliant chemical. It is widely known for its use by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. It was a mixture of equal parts of two herbicides, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. The chemical damaged the health of people who came into contact with it as well as extensively contaminated the environment.
The defoliant caused grievous health consequences for those who came in contact with it. Up to 4 million people in Vietnam were affected and 1 million people have illnesses. The chemical has damaged the genes, giving descendants with deformities. The US government has documented higher cases of leukemia, Hodgkin's lymphoma as well as various kinds of cancer in veterans. Agent Orange caused enormous environmental damage in Vietnam. Over 3,100,000 hectares (31,000 km2) of forest were defoliated. Defoliants eroded tree cover and seedling forest stock, making reforestation difficult in numerous areas. Animal species diversity sharply reduced in contrast with unsprayed areas.
The aftermath of the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam resulted in massive legal consequences. The United Nations ratified Resolution 31/72 and the Environmental Modification Convention. Lawsuits filed on behalf of veterans as well as Vietnamese veterans sought compensation for damages.
Agent Orange was to a lesser extent used outside Vietnam. Some countries, such as Canada, saw testing, while other countries, such as Brazil, used the herbicide to clear out sections of land for agriculture. Land in Laos and Cambodia was sprayed with Agent Orange because forests on the border with Vietnam were used by the Vietcong.