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US Army Probes Report of Agent Orange Dumping in Korea

The U.S. Army says it is looking into a report that drums of the Vietnam War-era toxic defoliant Agent Orange were buried 33 years ago at an American military facility in South Korea.

A U.S. Army spokesman told VOA on Thursday that the Army is reviewing historical records to try to verify the report. It also is consulting environmental experts to learn how the dangerous material should be handled.

South Korea's Environment Ministry said Thursday it will ask U.S. officials to determine whether the chemical was dumped in 1978 at Camp Carroll, near Daegu, in the southeastern part of the country.

Reports of the dumping first appeared last week on a TV station (KPHO) in Phoenix, in the U.S. state of Arizona.

Three U.S. Army veterans told the station they had been ordered to dig a ditch, nearly the length of a city block, to bury about 250 bright yellow or orange drums, each believed to contain 208 liters of the defoliant. They said the chemical was seeping through the barrels and gave off a "sickly sweet" smell.

The three men say they have developed health problems which they believe are linked to their exposure to the chemical.

Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Buczkowski said the Army takes any possibility of health or environmental hazards "very seriously."

The U.S. military used Agent Orange during the Vietnam War to get rid of dense jungle brush. Since then, the chemical has been linked to increased cancer rates and birth defects.

The U.S. Defense Department acknowledged in 1999 that Agent Orange and two other defoliants were sprayed in the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) during the late 1960s. U.S. officials say the surplus defoliant was incinerated and buried at sea.