The information was revealed at a workshop held Monday by a national committee (Steering Committee 33) set up to mitigate the consequences of toxic chemicals used by the US during the Vietnam War and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Research done last year as part of a project named "Environmental Remediation of Dioxin Contaminated Hotspots in Vietnam" funded by UNDP and the Global Environment Facility found the newly discovered sites to have high levels of dioxin.

The dioxin concentration in 16 of 28 surveyed lakes at the Bien Hoa airbase is higher than the threshold requiring a clean-up under national and international standards. The experts fear that the contamination level at the airbase is higher than in Da Nang and Phu Cat airports – two other dioxin hotspots targeted under the project. They have urged Dong Nai authorities to take immediate measures to protect the health of local residents.

They said authorities must ban residents from even entering, let alone fishing in, the contaminated lakes, and that people must use tap water and not water from the lakes. Steering Committee 33 will hand over the study results to the Ministry of Defense before working on a master plan to clean up the airbase.

The Bien Hoa, Da Nang, and Phu Cat airports are tainted because Agent Orange was stored there during the war that ended in April 1975. People living their vicinity have suffered from the devastating effects of the toxic defoliant, including birth defects and cancer, for more than 40 years.

Between 1961 and 1971, the US army sprayed 80 million liters of Agent Orange containing 366 kilograms of the dioxin over 76,800 square kilometers of southern Vietnam. Between 2.1 to 4.8 million Vietnamese were directly exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides during the war.

Thanh Nien News - March 10, 2014