With orange having been his campaign colour in the Ukranian presidential election, and the emblem of resistance to the fraudulent election results, creative voices in the world media have tried to find an ironic symmetry in the news that medical tests confirm that Victor Yushchensko ingested dioxin. The Daily Express claimed that he had been poisoned with Agent Orange. The news that high levels of dioxin were found in tissue samples tends to cut through some of the confusion and speculation in the media and the scientific community.
It is doubtful that he was exposed Agent Orange, which was mixture of two herbicides deployed as a defoliant by the American forces in Vietnam. It caused serious health effects for the workers who manufactured it, the soldiers who applied it, and everyone exposed to it. Dioxin was not an active ingredient of Agent Orange. The word dioxin describes a family of chloro-organic chemicals which are carcinogenic and toxic. TCDD is a dioxin compound, a byproduct rather than an intended result of the production of 2,4,5-T, one of the two main components of Agent Orange. It isn’t clear that Agent Orange is still being manufactured or stockpiled, but there are many other chemical mixtures that contain dioxins.
Dioxins are highly toxic, but not particularly fast acting. During the months before the test results were released, scientists pointed out that it would take a high dose to kill someone. On the other hand, a chemical that disfigures and incapacitates a candidate can influence the course of an election campaign.
(Added December 18, 2004):
As the new stories about the dioxin poisoning are published, the misconceptions about dioxin and Agent Orange are being multiplied. On Friday December 17, as the news that Yushchensko had ingested pure TCDD, even the BBC started to report that dioxin was an ingredient of Agent Orange. The media’s effort to paint dioxin orange overshadows the implications of the fact that pure TCDD is only made in a few labs for medical testing and chemical warfare, which certainly points to the involvement of the Russians, notorious for their chemical weapon stockpiles.