What is certain is that the effects of Agent Orange spraying are still being felt in Vietnam and the long-term health legacy of the contaminant dioxins remains a problem.
Polychlorodibenzodioxins (PCDDs) are known to infiltrate and climb the food chain, eventually ending up in humans. They accumulate in fats and breast milk and are passed from mother to child during breastfeeding. The elevated levels were confirmed in Vietnamese mothers in a study published in 2001, but that study cannot be extrapolated to the general population, according to a second team of researchers.
The data did reveal a strong Agent Orange effect, even 40-50 years after the defoliant was sprayed across the countryside, with levels covering a broad range. However, the toxic equivalency factors (TEQs) of PCDDs & PCDFs in first-time mothers (primiparae) within the three types of region were greater than those of multiparae in each region. This is consistent with the fact that breastfeeding is an important route of dioxin release in nursing mothers.