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The legacy of Agent Orange

38 years after the U.S. Air Force withdrew from the Danang air base in Vietnam, attempts to clear the area of a dioxin linked to cancers and birth defects have finally started. Reuters reports:

Vietnam and the United States took the first step towards cleaning up Agent Orange contamination on Friday, a development that the top U.S. diplomat in the country said was one of the most significant between the two countries.

A ribbon cutting near a barren, sun-baked corner of the Danang airport grounds where the defoliant was stored before being sprayed from U.S. warplanes during the 1960s and early 70s held symbolic meaning for a relationship that has come under the spotlight amid renewed tensions in the South China Sea.

AP, file

U.S. Air Force planes spray the defoliant chemical Agent Orange over dense vegetation in South Vietnam in this 1966 photo.

David Guttenfelder / AP, file

Nguyen Thi Kieu Nhung sits inside her family home next to the Danang airbase in Danang, Vietnam on May 21, 2007. The girl was born with physical deformities, including twisted limbs, a misshapen head, and protruding eyes suspected by local health officials to have been caused by dioxin in the chemical defoliant Agent Orange. More than 30 years after the Vietnam War ended, the poisonous legacy of Agent Orange has emerged anew with a scientific study that has found extraordinarily high levels of health-threatening contamination at the former U.S. air base at Danang.

Kham / Reuters

Soldiers detect Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) and defoliant Agent Orange during the launch of the "environmental remediation of dioxin contamination" project, in Vietnam's Danang City on June 17, 2011.

Kham / Reuters

Agent Orange victims are seen at a hospice in Danang City on June 16, 2011.

Read more in our story: US, Vietnam team up in war on Agent Orange.

To learn more about the legacy of Agent Orange, watch photographer Ed Kashi's film from Danang, The leaves keep falling, and visit the Make Agent Orange History website.