From the BBC

A French court is set to hear a landmark case against more than a dozen companies that supplied the US with the notorious chemical Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

The case was brought by Tran To Nga, a 78-year-old French-Vietnamese woman who covered the conflict as a journalist.

She accuses the chemical firms of causing harm to her and her children.

It is the first time civilian victims of Agent Orange have had their cases heard in court.

The highly toxic defoliant was sprayed by US forces to destroy jungles and uncover the enemy’s hiding places from 1962 until 1971.

It contained dioxin, which is one of the most toxic chemicals known to humans, and has been linked to increased rates of cancers and birth defects.

Vietnam says several million people have been affected by Agent Orange, including 150,000 children born with severe birth defects.

What does the lawsuit say?

Ms Nga filed the lawsuit in 2014 against 14 firms that made or sold the toxic chemical. The case will be heard in a court near Paris on Monday, and the named companies include Monsanto and Dow Chemical.

Ms Nga is seeking damages in recognition of the health problems herself, her children and many others have suffered as a result of the chemical’s use.

She is also seeking recognition of the damage Agent Orange caused to the environment. The substance destroyed plants, poisoned animals, and polluted Vietnam’s soil and rivers.

“I’m not fighting for myself, but for my children and the millions of victims,” Ms Nga said ahead of the court hearing. The former journalist has suffered a number of health problems, including cancer and diabetes.

One of her daughters also died of a malformation of the heart.

“A recognition of Vietnamese civilian victims would constitute a legal precedent,” one international law specialist, Valérie Cabanes, told the AFP news agency.

The US compensates its veterans exposed to the defoliant, but does not compensate Vietnamese nationals.

The named companies, meanwhile, insist it was the US military that designed and made Agent Orange and say they cannot be held responsible for how it was used during the conflict.

But lawyers for Ms Nga are expected to argue that the firms misled the US government over how toxic the substance was. Ms Cabanes described the toxicity of Agent Orange as “absolutely phenomenal”.

More than 80 million litres of Agent Orange are estimated to have been sprayed by US forces over Vietnam.

From the 1960s, doctors in the country began to see a sharp rise in birth defects, cancers and other illnesses linked to exposure to the chemical.

The US ended the use of defoliant chemicals in the war in 1971, and withdrew from Vietnam in 1975.

But, decades after the conflict ended, medical experts say thousands of children in Vietnam are still diagnosed with congenital malformations every year.