19 October 2005

Herbicide Orange in Newfoundland and Labrador - updated

Update: Here's the CBC television story on Agent Orange, complete with pictures. (Note - needs RealPlayer)

It took a while to make it on the air, but this October 13 news release from Liberal Opposition environment critic Percy Barrett calls on the provincial government to investigate possible use in Newfoundland and Labrador of Herbicide Orange, commonly called Agent Orange.

There are several possible sites where the herbicide could have been used in the 1950s and 1960s, including the American bases at Stephenville, Pleasantville (St. John's), Argentia and Goose Bay and Canadian military sites at Torbay, Gander and Red Cliff, near St. John's, as well as other Pine Tree radar sites.

There were also some gap-filler radar sites in other parts of the province.

(Left) Aerial photograph of ruins of Red Cliff Pine Tree Site, near St. John's, May 2005

Perhaps the best known use of the herbicide is Operation Ranch Hand, a series of sprays during the Vietnam War designed to reduce jungle coverage used by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops as cover.

Recent news stories indicate that Herbicide Orange was also used at Canadian military bases, like Camp Gagetown in New Brunswick. This website is related to claims by veterans and civilians that exposure to Herbicide Orange made them sick.

Provincial environment minister Tom Osborne is dismissing Barrett's claims as fear-mongering. Nonetheless he has written to several civilian companies inquiring about their possible use of Herbicide Orange.

Unfortunately for Mr. Osborne, Herbicide Orange was developed exclusively for military use. It was never sold to civilian companies or non-military government agencies.

Orange was a combination of two other herbicides: 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. Those plant-killing chemicals may have been sold separately under different names, just as they were before they were combined as Orange.

They are still available for commercial (i.e. public) use across Canada.

(Right) Accompanied by a T-28 Trojan, a United States Air Force C-123B Provider returns to base from a spray mission as part of Operation Ranch Hand, somewhere over South Vietnam.