In 1965 to 1970, during the Vietnam war, the United States Air Force utilized more than four million liters of Agent Orange, a code name for herbicide 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic (2,4-D) and herbicide 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic (2,4,5-T). Theses herbicides were commonly used in the United States for weed control purposes in agriculture. The name, ‘Agent Orange,' originated from the color of the barrel in which the chemicals were stored before it was sprayed. These chemicals were intentionally applied to destroy jungle areas in South Vietnam to uncover hidden bases of the enemy; yet, it caused more damage than just defoliant, it infected the citizens of Vietnam as well as the U.S. army during the war with a dioxin.
Agent Orange is mixed with two chemicals in a ratio of one to one: herbicide 2,4-D and herbicide 2,4,5-T. Herbicide 2,4-D, commonly known as a weed killer, is used in many households in the United States. However, manufacturing herbicide 2,4,5-T is banned in the United States because the appearance of ,2,3,7,8 Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin(TCDD), a dioxin, was found after manufacturing herbicide 2,4,5-T. Dioxins are a family of chemicals containing two benzene rings connected by a pair of oxygen molecules.
In order to manufacture herbicide 2,4,5-T, one must chemically combine Cl4C6H2 , NaOH, and H2O together. Cl4C6H2 + NaOH + H2O pressure, and heatàCl3C6H2OH (2,4,5-TCP) + NaCl. After 2,4,5-TCP is produced, adding ClCH2COOH and an appropriate amount of heat (140oC) will produce herbicide 2,4,5- T. But if the amount heat exceeds 160oC, it will contaminate 2,4,5-T and produce 2,3,7,8 TCDD, one among many dioxins. If 2,4,5-T is manufactured immaculately, it would produce the reaction: Cl3C6H2OH + ClCH2COOH heatà Cl3C6H2OCH2COOH(2,4,5-T) + HCl. Whereas, applying heat over 160oC would produce the reaction: 2Cl3C6H2OH + 2NaOH àCl4C12H4O2 + 2H2O +2NaCl. Cl3C6H2OH (known as 2,3,7,8 TCDD).
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found no significant increase in the risk of diabetes in exposed workers. Conversely, sixty percent of the workers who were exposed to the high concentrations of TCDD contracted diabetes. Research conducted by Philip A. Kern from the University of Arkansas has shed light on the link between TCDD and diabetes. War Veterans with high blood levels of TCDD were generally more prone to the occurrence of diabetes. Previous studies have found that adipose TNFα is related to insulin resistance. TCDD plays a role in stimulating TNFα expression which may then cause insulin resistance.
The law suit against manufacturers of the ‘Agent Orange' carried out solely public opinion survey. Although solid unquestionable scientific facts that the chemical had not caused veteran's problems were presented, the jury would not be convinced. As a result of the trial, companies settled the cases for $180 million. The manufacturers' argument was that connection between dioxins and diseases is controversial due to inconsistent data, and it is not a problem with having near this chemical, it is due to high level of exposure. Experiment carried out by Phillip A. Kern was on the manufacture workers who were exposed to high concentration of TCDD.