Cleaning up a toxic legacy in Vietnam

Fifty years after the war in Vietnam ended, the nation is still dealing with the toxic legacy of Agent Orange, one of the herbicides sprayed throughout the countryside that directly exposed generations of Vietnamese to dioxin, “the most toxic substance ever created by humans,” writes George Black in FERN’s latest story, produced in collaboration with Yale Environment 360.

The story focuses on Bien Hoa, one of the airbases where the defoliant was loaded onto planes during the war. Since then, the toxic remnants have flowed into the canals and lakes near the base, contaminating fish and the food supply, and has been found in breast milk among the local residents.

“Thousands of gallons leaked into the soil from bulk storage tanks,” Black writes. “But now, 50 years after the contamination occurred, the time has finally come to clean up the Bien Hoa air base. Both U.S. and Vietnamese officials call it one of the biggest and most complex environmental remediation projects in the world. It will involve the treatment of enough contaminated soils and sediments to fill 200 Olympic-size swimming pools, and it will cost at least $390 million, and possibly much more.”

The story can also be read at Yale Environment 360.