US, Vietnam complete Agent Orange decontamination campaign at Da Nang airport

By Staff reporters   November 9, 2017 | 10:15 pm PT
US, Vietnam complete Agent Orange decontamination campaign at Da Nang airport
Under Secretary Shannon (L) and Senior Lieutenant General Nam discuss the successful collaboration in Environmental Remediation of Dioxin at Danang Airport. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi
The project at the airport is the U.S.’s first direct involvement in the dioxin cleanup efforts in Vietnam.

Vietnam and the U.S. on Thursday marked the completion of a massive dioxin cleanup campaign at Da Nang International Airport in Vietnam’s central city, where the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit is taking place between November 6 and 11.

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas A. Shannon Jr. joined Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Phuong Nam, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the People’s Army of Vietnam, in a ceremony to celebrate the success of the joint project at the airport, the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam said in a statement on Friday.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Vietnam's Ministry of National Defense first launched the project at Da Nang Airport in 2012, which culminated in the treatment of more than 90,000 cubic meters of contaminated material and contained another 60,000 cubic meters of lower risk material.

Shannon said the project “stands as a symbol of the growing U.S.-Vietnamese partnership and demonstrates how both countries can turn past issues of contention into new areas of cooperation.”

In anticipation of President Donald Trump’s state visit to Vietnam on Saturday after attending the APEC Summit, he announced that the U.S. is also committed to the dioxin remediation efforts at Bien Hoa Airport, a former U.S. air base in Dong Nai Province, more than 30 kilometers (around 20 miles) from Saigon.

A 2016 U.S.-Vietnam joint environmental assessment found that the volume of dioxin contamination at Bien Hoa airbase makes it the largest dioxin hot spot in Vietnam, highlighting the significance of this next area of cooperation.

Between 1961 and 1971, the U.S. Army sprayed some 80 million liters of Agent Orange over 78,000 square kilometers (30,000 square miles) of southern Vietnam.

Dioxin, a highly toxic chemical contained in the defoliant, stays in the soil and at the bottom of lakes and rivers for generations. It can enter the food chain through meat, fish and other animals, and has been found at alarmingly high levels in human breast milk.

Between 2.1 to 4.8 million Vietnamese were directly exposed to Agent Orange and other chemicals that have been linked to cancers, birth defects and other chronic diseases before the war ended in April 1975, according to the Vietnam Red Cross.

America's first direct involvement in the cleanup efforts was an $84 million grant for a project at Da Nang International Airport in 2012.

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