Texas Panhandle students to travel to Vietnam studying effects of agent orange

Updated: Feb. 21, 2020 at 9:32 PM CST
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - A purple heart Vietnam veteran shared his memories of Vietnam and the effects he has seen of agent orange.

“They dumped over 13 million gallons, I think, of agent orange, in various forests and jungle areas,” said Don Roden, commander of military purple heart 553 and Vietnam veteran.

Agent orange is a herbicide that was used in Vietnam by the United States military during the war. It had two main uses in Vietnam.

“Defoliating the forest that maybe was concealing the Viet Cong, as well as the North Vietnamese forces. Also, they went to kill the crops that might be feeding the enemy,” said Roden.

At the time, nobody knew the lasting effects of this kind of toxin.

“A lot of my buddies have had a lot of health problems. I’ve had some of them that have died from various cancers. There have been links to birth defects,” said Roden.

Students from Amarillo College, West Texas A&M, and Texas Tech, are taking a trip to Vietnam to further study this toxin.

“We went through multiple different rounds of where we wanted to go. We finally came up with Vietnam and the study of agent orange and how it effects multiple generations,” said Michelle Wittler, STEM student.

Students will be taking portable equipment to test stagnant water and soil in Vietnam for these toxins in agent orange.

“That will also give a lot of exposure for our STEM research club students. They have done so much research over the past two years with us. Being a community college, some of the results are publishable,” said Asanga Ranasinghe, assistant professor of chemistry at Amarillo College.

Even though this war was decades ago, we continue to see its impacts today.

“Vietnam lost over 58,000 soldiers, and the bad thing about it is there was over 200 and something million that was exposed to agent orange. So that, just those numbers alone, just let you know that there is still a lot of veterans out there that are living with these issues that agent orange caused,”said Roden.

For more information about this trip you can contact Professor Ranasinghe at adranasinghe@actx.edu.

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