In April 2011, Dr. Dana Barr, a professor at Emory University and noted pesticide exposure expert at the Center for Disease Control, presented the results of a human pesticide exposure study she had conducted on Lane County residents to Oregon's Board of Forestry. The Board of Forestry is the state entity ostensibly tasked with regulating forestry practices in Oregon.
The results of the study conducted using standard and rigorous scientific chain of custody methods were shocking: all of the 48 Triangle Lake/Blachly residents who participated in the study had been exposed to two pesticides readily used in Oregon's private commercial forests: 2,4-D (one-half of the chemical Agent Orange) and Atrazine (an endocrine disrupter banned in the European Union that caused chemical castration in all invertebrate species studied). These results prompted Gov. John Kitzhaber to order the Oregon Health Authority to determine whether and how Oregonians were being exposed to pesticides.
OHA's subsequent investigation collected additional urine samples from 64 residents in western Lane County. Similar to the Barr Study, the pesticide 2,4-D was detected in 59 of 64 people's urine, even though it hadn't been applied in the area by timber companies for nearly five months.
OHA had planned to expand the study during the spring of 2012 to collect more data on how Oregon's private forest practices impact human health. This plan was foiled, however, by the actions of private foresters, who coincidentally had ceased applying Atrazine and 2,4-D in the study area altogether. This meant that OHA had to look beyond the original study area to less populated areas to continue its research. When too few volunteers signed up to participate in the expanded study, OHA decided to suspend the investigation indefinitely.
Because of a broken pesticide notification system, the participants in the original Barr study had no idea what foresters had applied in the months preceding their urine analysis. When they discovered that they had been exposed to forestry pesticides, they quickly requested that the Oregon Department of Forestry provide the spray operator records from eight of the township sections where industrial aerial pesticide sprays had occurred. Six months later, OHA asked for the same information as part of its investigation. Under Oregon Law, these records were required to be maintained by applicators and must identify, among other things, the types of pesticides applied, the quantity applied, environmental conditions such as wind speed and precipitation. This information is critical in assessing whether conditions favorable to chemical drift were present during the applications.
It took ODF more than six months to provide the applicator records. More troubling, the documents that were produced were heavily redacted by ODF, which claimed Oregon's timber companies had told it the undisclosed information was protected as "trade secrets," even though this same type of information had been provided to ODF and the public in the past. To date, ODF has not indicated whether it will provide complete, unredacted documents to Oregon's citizens.
What the spray records did reveal is that several Oregon timber companies applied Atrazine and 2,4-D in the days and weeks preceding Barr's urine analyses. This causal chain is hard to ignore: foresters aerially apply pesticides to hundreds of acres of timberland, and immediately thereafter these same dangerous chemicals appear in the urine of citizens who live nearby. Despite the alarming red flag raised by these results, Oregon's timber companies plan to apply Atrazine, 2,4-D, and many other pesticides to more than 125,000 acres of Oregon's forests this year alone. Many of these acres are surrounded by rural farms, businesses, and most importantly, families.
Further findings of Lake Creek resident's scientific POCIS testing of the water in four local creeks determined that these results, consistent with the Barr urine tests, show conclusively that forestry pesticides are reaching fish-bearing streams in our the watershed.
Forestry pesticides are in western Lane residents' urine who live miles apart and in creeks flowing in distinct valleys that weren't recently sprayed.
The salient question is: How did pesticides get there if they don't drift from commercial spray operations as Oregon agencies' staff and the timber industry claim?
People living with these practices across the state are finally realizing just how dangerous forestry pesticides can be. Many, including Standing Together to Outlaw Pesticides, have asked Governor Kitzhaber to issue a moratorium on forestry pesticide use until foresters can prove that applications can be accomplished in a manner that does not cause human health exposures at any level. Please join your fellow Oregonians in demanding that the governor take immediate action on this vital human health issue. People across our state are unknowingly and unwillingly being exposed to chemicals that, from a human health standpoint, are barely understood. After 40 years it is time for our government to assert precaution, step in and finally protect the health of Oregon's air, water, land and citizenry from these toxic practices.
Amy Pincus Merwin is the public information officer for STOP (Standing Together to Outlaw Pesticides), More information about the group is available at www.STOP-Oregon.org.