Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Speaking of chemical weapons military pesticides, a new article in Nature shows that we sprayed "at least 2.1 million but perhaps as many as 4.8 million people" with more than 75 million liters of pesticide in Vietnam. And then there is the collateral damage:
Unlike in Laos, it was official US policy to avoid spraying Cambodia either directly or indirectly by spray drift. Records show several heavily sprayed regions of RVN, near Cambodia. The HERBS file shows one five-aircraft Ranch Hand mission dispersing approximately 19,000�l of Agent Orange on 5 April 1969 inside Cambodia. Another nine missions dispersed about 136,000�l of Agent Orange while partly over Cambodian territory (Fig. 3c). At the typical rate of 28�l�ha-1 this would cover about 5,500�ha. Undocumented spray drift may have also occurred. In May 1969 a diplomatic crisis arose when Cambodia charged the US with repeatedly spraying it and defoliating 70,930�ha; evidence of defoliation was confirmed by visiting foreign scientists. Cambodian claims seem to be exaggerated in that to achieve the extent of alleged defoliation nearly half of the Ranch Hand flights for April?May 1969 would have to have been directed towards Cambodia. Records are not available to resolve the controversy, particularly since the area was devastated by US B-52 bombing raids in 1970.
[Stellman, et al., "The extent and patterns of usage of Agent Orange and other herbicides in Vietnam," Nature 422 (2003), 681-7; refs. removed for legibility].

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