History of Agent Orange Extract: Just what did the US Government do with all the leftover?

Given wide interest in Agent Orange Being Used to Clear Brazil’s Rainforest, commenters provided much information.  The following piece is an extract from a larger Dept. of Defense report filed in 2006, dealing with the plan to sell it to South American nations, as suggested by the Rockefeller Foundation’s International Research Institute. ~Ed.

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DOD Tactical Herbicide Sites

Submitted by Alvin L. Young, Ph. D.
For Office of the Under Secretary of Defense
William Van Houten
December 2006

Site 25
Location: Reformulation of Herbicide Orange for Domestic or Foreign Use, Bound-Brook, New Jersey
Date → April 1972 – January 1973

Activity Description:

One method selected for the potential disposal of the surplus 2.3 million gallons of Herbicide Orange remaining after the Vietnam War was the option of donating or selling the herbicide to private industry, or to another United States Government Agency.

For example, a significant portion of the total land area of the United States was used for pasture and grazing purposes, and weeds and brush presented a major problem on these lands. Various species of undesirable brush and trees and numerous noxious (foreign) weeds dominated some 320 million acres of US rangeland and pastures, and the application of phenoxy herbicides, such as found in Herbicide Orange, could be an economical method of increasing the quality and grazing capacity of these lands.

Moreover, in April 1972 representatives from the Blue Spruce Company, Bound-Brook, New Jersey and from the International Research Institute, a Rockefeller Foundation affiliate, contacted the Air Force Logistics Command proposing to reformulate Herbicide Orange and sell or donate it to a number of South American Governments, including Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, and Surinam. The basic plan was to have the Air Force donate the herbicide for use to improve rangelands in the upper Amazon Basins of South America.

The Herbicide Orange would be reformulated (diluted) and repackaged for ground application under controlled conditions. AFLC advised the Blue Spruce Company that “it had no objection, but recommended that the proposed governments that would be involved would employ Blue Spruce Company to reformulate and repackage the Herbicide Orange.”

From May 1972 through January 1973, 121 drums (6,655) gallons of Herbicide Orange were shipped to the Blue Spruce Company.

Assessment:

As a “Tactical Herbicide”, Herbicide Orange was not an EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) registered pesticide, and as such could not be domestically used or sold. However, the 2.3 million gallons of surplus represented a resource of considerable monetary value.

Beginning in May 1972 the Blue Spruce Company experimented on reformulating and diluting the Herbicide Orange. Simultaneously, the Company (with the assistance of the International Research Institute) initiated discussions with the Brazilian Government and with the US EPA. After more than one year negotiating with US and South American Government Agencies, letters of support for the proposal were not forthcoming.

Accordingly, after a great deal of discussion, the United States Air Force Scientific Advisory Board’s Ad Hoc Committee on the Disposal of Herbicide Orange rejected this alternative for the following reasons:

“Once sold or donated, the United States could not assure that the herbicide would be handled with the proper technical and environmental controls. In addition, the widespread publicity on the use of the herbicide in Southeast Asia had created an ‘antipeople’ image for the material that would probably result in adverse public opinion and political reactions in the event the herbicide was sold to another country. In view of these considerations, the Board felt that the herbicide’s sale or donation to a foreign country would be against the best interests of the United States.”

No record could be found of how the Blue Spruce Company disposed of the reformulated

herbicide. The use of 2,4,5-T herbicide was not formally suspended until 1978.

Sources:

Department of the Air Force (1974): Final Environmental Statement on the Disposition of Orange Herbicide by Incineration. November 1974, Department of the Air Force, Washington, DC, Unclassified, available for public distribution

Air Force Logistics Command (1976): Historical Records – Project on the Disposition of Herbicide Orange. Office of History, Air Force Logistics Command Archives, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Unclassified

Extracted fromThe History of the US Department of Defense Programs for the Testing, Evaluation, and Storage of Tactical Herbicides,” Site 25. Reformulation of Herbicide Orange for Domestic or Foreign Use, Bound-Brook, New Jersey, April 1972 – January 1973, pp. 63-64.

Hat tip Kelly Porter Franklin.

3 responses to “History of Agent Orange Extract: Just what did the US Government do with all the leftover?

  1. Pingback: History of Agent Orange Extract: Dumb Brain Dead Criminals In US Government « DummdDown

  2. ‘considerable monetary value’

  3. Okay what did happen to the herbicide that was reconstituted? Sold overseas? Quietly forgotten about? Returned to the military for official disposal?
    After all the document suggests that the amount sent to the Blue Spruce Company was to be diluted for use by civilain operations. So that means that if it was in concentrated form it could have been well in excess of the 6,655 gallons that were initially sent out. How concentrated was this stuff and by what ratio of dilution was it originally used over Vietnam? Obviously the amount of dilution appliedfor the military operation would have been far less than if it was to be diluted for peacetime use. Even if it was only 50:50 or 1 part to every 100 it would amount to one helluva load of chemicals.

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