Dozens of rusting barrels unearthed on former U.S. military land in Okinawa City have been identified as containing chemical precursors to defoliant Agent Orange, a toxic compound used widely in the Vietnam War and blamed for poisoning that has resulted in birth defects and other health problems.
Dug up more than five months ago, the 61 barrels contain three signature components of Agent Orange: the herbicides 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, and the highly toxic TCDD dioxin, according to two independent teams of experts representing Okinawa City and the Okinawa Defense Bureau respectively.
It is the first time that all three ingredients have been identified on former U.S. military property on Okinawa.
About half of the 61 barrels bore markings of the Dow Chemical Company, one of the largest manufacturers of Agent Orange for the U.S. military.
The presence of the three chemical precursors “unequivocally defines at least some of the media sampled as being contaminated with this defoliant,” said environmental biologist Wayne Dwernychuk, who has studied the impact of Agent Orange in Vietnam.
“Dow Chemical markers on the drums further contribute to this conclusion that the original contents of some of these drums was Agent Orange,” he added.