The herbicides were shipped to Vietnam from several US ports, including Baltimore, Seattle and New Orleans, early on in the war; and from Mobile, Alabama or the Outport of Gulfport, Mississippi, after 1966. Once they arrived in the Port of Saigon, they were stored at either the 20th ARVN Ordnance Depot in Saigon or the 511th ARVN Ordnance Depot at the Da Nang airbase, until they were sent onto their final destinations.
Not only did Agent Orange/dioxin contaminate areas throughout southern Vietnam during the Vietnam War, but the areas where the herbicides were manufactured, stored or tested in the United States and elsewhere in the world are also contaminated to this day with dioxin.
The components of Agent Orange 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D were made by many US chemical companies, beginning in the late 1940s.
Prior to and during the Vietnam War, these herbicides were used in domestic agriculture, sprayed along railroad and power lines, and employed to control undergrowth in American forests.
For the war effort, the US military procured over 20 million gallons of Agent Orange (a roughly fifty-fifty mixture of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T), primarily from nine different companies:
- Dow Chemical, in Midland MI
- Monsanto, in Nitro, WV
- Diamond Alkali/Shamrock, in Newark, NJ
- Hercules, in Jacksonville, AR
- Thompson-Hayward Chemical, in Kansas City, KS
- US Rubber Company/Uniroyal, in Elmira, Ontario
- Thomson Chemical Corporation, in St Louis, MO
- Hoffman-Taff Inc, in Verona, MO
Many of the sites where the dioxin contaminated 2,4,5-T was manufactured are now EPA Superfund sites in various stages of containment, clean-up and remediation. Local community groups have been battling the chemical companies, the EPA and/or the Army Corps of Engineers to address the dioxin contamination left behind.
Workers at the Monsanto plant in Nitro seem to have been the first victims of 2,4,5-T.
Meanwhile, the community of Times Beach, Missouri, was devastated when waste from the facility in nearby Verona that had produced Agent Orange during the Vietnam War was used to oil the town roads. Times Beach was evacuated in 1985. After the contaminated soil was removed and incinerated in 1996-97, the town became a state park.
“The dioxin was in the dirt. I think maybe that was his exposure.”
– Saginaw resident Alice Buchalter, on her husband who died from gardening, Chicago Tribune, 2009.
Hazardous Waste Cleanup: Solutia Nitro Site (Formerly: Flexsys, Solutia, Monsanto) in Nitro, West Virginia.
Off-site contamination extends over 50 miles downstream through the Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers and into Saginaw Bay.
Agent Orange and other herbicides used in Vietnam were tested or stored elsewhere, including many military bases in the United States.