Agent Pink

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Ranch Hand UC-123B spraying defoliant in 1962

Agent Pink is the code name for a powerful herbicide and defoliant used by the U.S. military in its herbicidal warfare program during the Vietnam War. The name comes from the pink stripe painted on the barrels to identify the contents. Largely inspired by the British use of herbicides and defoliants during the Malayan Emergency, it was one of the rainbow herbicides that included the more infamous Agent Orange. Agent Pink was only used during the early "testing" stages of the spraying program before 1964.

Agent Pink's only active ingredient was 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T), one of the common phenoxy herbicides of the era. Agent Pink contained about 60%–40% of this active substance. Even prior to Operation Ranch Hand (1962–1971) it was known[1][2][3][4][5][6] that a dioxin, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-para-dioxin (TCDD), is produced as a byproduct of the manufacture of 2,4,5-T, and was present in any of the herbicides that used it, but to greater proportion in the earlier Agents, such as Pink.[7]

A 2003 Nature paper by Stellman et al., which re-apprised the average TCDD content of Agent Orange from the 3 ppm that USAF had reported to a level of 13 ppm, also estimated that Agent Pink may have had 65.5 ppm of TCDD on average. The comparatively smaller amounts of Pink and Purple—spraying of 50,312 l of Pink is documented, but an additional 413,852 l appear on procurement records—probably deposited a large percentage of the total dioxin.[7]


  1. ^ Berufliche Akne (sog. Chlorakne) durch chlorierte aromatische zyklische Äther Von J. Kimmig und K. H. Schulz in Dermatologica Vol. 115, 1957, p.540-6 (German; with English and French summaries; cited in CA 1958:22227) (accessed 2013-07-29)
  2. ^ Table TCDD-UNFÄLLE – Eine Bilanz des Schreckens pp. 54–59 in Seveso ist überall – Die tödlichen Risiken der Chemie by Egmont R. Koch, Fritz Vahrenholt; 1978, ISBN 3 462 012908 (accessed 2013-07-29)
  3. ^ p. 49 in Seveso ist überall – Die tödlichen Risiken der Chemie by Egmont R. Koch, Fritz Vahrenholt; 1978, ISBN 3 462 012908
  4. ^ Peter H. Schuck: Agent Orange on Trial: Mass Toxic Disasters in the Courts p. 17 (accessed 2013-07-29)
  5. ^ "Chemical companies, US authorities knew dangers of Agent Orange" by Jon Dillingham; August 10, 2009 (accessed 2013-07-29)
  6. ^ REPORT TO SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS ON THE ASSOCIATION BETWEEN ADVERSE HEALTH EFFECTS AND EXPOSURE TO AGENT ORANGE Archived 2016-04-06 at the Wayback Machine as Reported by Special Assistant Admiral E.R. Zumwalt, Jr., May 5, 1990 (accessed 2013-07-29)
  7. ^ a b Stellman, Jeanne et al. The Extent and patterns of usage of Agent Orange and other herbicides in Vietnam Nature, Vol. 422 (17 April 2003) pp. 681 – 687 (accessed 2013-07-28)