Is Agent Orange responsible for deformities in the children and grandchildren of people exposed to it during the Vietnam war? Vietnam claims the herbicide, used by the US to reduce forest cover, is to blame. But the US has never accepted this. The chances of the issue ever being resolved receded last month when the US cancelled a multimillion-dollar research project.
Under a 2003 US-Vietnam agreement, the study would have looked at the health effects of the dioxin TCDD, with which Agent Orange was contaminated. But the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences cancelled the project on 25 February 2005 after "failing to receive the necessary cooperation from the Vietnamese government".
Project head David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany in New York, US, adds that the research "could have been definitive" in a class action brought by Vietnamese plaintiffs against US manufacturers of Agent Orange, including Monsanto and Dow Chemicals. Carpenter says the ongoing legal action would have "increased the reluctance of the US government to fund this project".
Last week the class action was dismissed on broad legal grounds - not because of lack of evidence. But the US judge also ruled that no evidence had linked the defendants' herbicide to the plaintiffs' exposure to dioxin.