Toxic Regimes: Agent Orange, Science, and Pollution in Ontario, 1960s-1990s.

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Thursday, January 30th, 2020

Thursday, January 30, 20204:00PM - 6:00PM208N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place
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CSUS Graduate Student Workshop


Toxic Regimes: Agent Orange, Science, and Pollution in Ontario, 1960s-1990s.

In late 1989, chemical tests in Elmira, Ontario revealed the presence of dimethylnitrosamine (NDMA), a common by-product of rubber, organic chemical and other manufacturing processes, in the local water supply. Local government officials immediately shut down two town wells upon this discovery, and closed the remainder of the wells the following year. While NDMA posed a potential threat to human and environmental health, a longer legacy of equally, if not more, potentially dangerous chemical contaminants already existed in this small industrial town. Some of the most pertinent chemicals manufactured in Elmira as early as the 1950s were 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T — two herbicides which, when combined, constituted the chemical munition commonly known as Agent Orange. Indeed, one of the corporations based in Elmira supplied Agent Orange to the US Department of Defense during the 1960s, as the US military advanced its mass use of chemical weapons in the Vietnam War. In this talk, I discuss how the production, waste, and scientific knowledge of Agent Orange in Elmira was indelibly bound to an emergent local water and environmental crisis in the latter half of the twentieth century, as well as a greater network of Cold War technology and exposures.

Rohini is a PhD student in the History department. Her research focuses on the intersections of the history of science, environmental history, labour history, and Cold War politics in the North American and transnational context. She has an undergraduate degree in engineering and a Masters in modern history.


Nikola Milicic

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