The Deleterious Effects of the Pesticides-Government-Industrial Complex in Oregon
Clearcut forest, Highway 36 Corridor, Lane County, Oregon. (Photo: Eron King)
It was with heavy heart I started reading a recent report of Oregon Health Authority, an agency of the state of Oregon. This report finalized a state and federal investigation into the 2011 poisoning of Oregonians by timber companies.
The poisoned victims live near private forests in the Highway 36 corridor in western Lane County. Ninety-five percent or 173,152 acres of the land in the scene of the crime is forest, almost equally divided between federal and private owners.
I suspected the Oregon report would not be revealing the truth. I read hundreds of such reports during my 25-year tenure at the US Environmental Protection Agency. My suspicion had nothing to do with my personal revulsion to the crime of poisoning. Rather, I followed the link to pesticides and their toxic history.
Chemical companies, large users of pesticides like timber companies and large farmers and state and federal agencies consider pesticides essential for industrialized farming and forestry. They have created a model of deception for the protection of pesticides that easily compares to the corruption, secrecy and security of the agencies protecting nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons.
Clearcut, McMullen Creek Road, Selma, Oregon. (Photo: Steve Kirkland.)
Clearcut, Highway 36 Corridor, western Lane County, Oregon. (Photo: Evaggelos Vallianatos)
No citizen or ethical scientist can easily take a look and understand the historical, bureaucratic and corporate black hole protecting pesticides.
Pesticides kill more than pests. They are biocides by design. Chemical industry lobbyists rather than lawgivers drafted the pesticide law. The legal text of this "law" is technical and exceedingly ambiguous - facilitating the cause of polluters.
Each major pesticide earns 10 to 20 million dollars per year for around 20 years.
Clearcut forest, Highway 36 Corridor, Lane County, Oregon. (Photo: Eron King)One of the first anchors of pesticide protection came from the fraudulent testing of these lucrative chemicals. Fraudulent tests allowed the US Department of Agriculture and, since December 1970, the EPA to approve or register pesticides for use in farming, forestry, lawns and other uses.
The EPA has been facing fraudulent pesticide labs for most of its life. The pressure on EPA (from the industry, the White House, and Congress) not to discover more fraudulent labs has been such that EPA outsourced its responsibility for examining pesticide "safety" data.
As if fraudulent testing of pesticides was not a serious enough crime, the pesticide law added another giant loophole for even more crimes. The tested pesticide is never used alone. It is always mixed with several other toxic chemicals, which the EPA calls "inerts." These inerts, of course, are anything but inerts. They include carcinogenic petroleum distillates and other hazardous substances.
EPA's perverse definition of inerts conveniently covers-up science and enables the farmer or the timber company to spray a mixture of chemicals that, together, are many times more deleterious than the "tested" "active" ingredient (pesticide). In addition, this sophisticated, nay criminal, use of pesticides blurs the toxicity of the key pesticide, making it next to impossible to pinpoint its effects.
It's this criminality, carefully blended with ambiguous science and government regulation, which explain the survival of farm and timber biocides for so many decades. After all, organic farming makes them entirely unnecessary for producing food. We see the effects of their poisoning all over the natural world and in rapidly increasing human disease and death.
Destruction of forest around a rural school, Highway 36 Corridor, Lane County, Oregon. (Photo: Eron King)
The defenders of pesticides, a cabal of private and government agencies, bamboozle anyone daring to challenge the safety of pesticides.
The Oregon poisoning incident illustrates this process of bad science and corruption. Oregonians living in the midst or borders of private forests have been ceaselessly sprayed with powerful weed killers. Most of the time, the victims get sick and move away from Oregon or get sick and possibly die silently in Oregon.
In the spring of 2011, however, a small group of the timber company victims decided to fight back. They collected urine samples and had them tested in a laboratory in Georgia. The lab found 2,4-D and atrazine in the urine. These are toxic herbicides or weed killers.
In fact, 2,4-D is also a chemical warfare agent. The US military used 2,4-D and its sibling, 2,4,5-T, in the form of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War.
We don't know whether the present-day 2,4-D is also contaminated by dioxin. But even without dioxin, 2,4-D is a potent killer.
Once the sprayed Oregonians presented the results of their tested urine samples to Oregon authorities, the government of Oregon sought the assistance of two federal agencies: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency. Three years later, the government of Oregon concluded the sprayed Oregonians had nothing to fear. The sprays (2,4-D and atrazine and other toxins) hit them at levels that could not hurt them.
The official 130-page report (Public Health Assessment: Highway 36 Corridor Exposure Investigation, October 2014) is full of acronyms and repetitive assertions. The dense text is full of questionable conclusions.
But the real purpose of the report is to protect both pesticides and their owners. In the toxic strategy of protecting pesticides, the report is the second phase of using bad science to cover-up the truth of the deleterious effects of pesticides.
The mighty government consortium, speaking with the presumed authority of science, is telling fearful victims not to worry, promising more research on their behalf.
One of the victims of timber spraying, Audrey Moore, reached her own conclusion about the Oregon report. She told me she loathed the "investigation." She attended town hall meetings and listened to what she described as "politically correct BS." Moore dismissed the report of an "investigation that never was."
Moore is paying the ultimate price. She has cancer. She is wise enough to direct her anger not only at the companies that spray pesticides but at the "void" and the "silence"… "from those who know." This means you and me. She asks: Why are we not up in arms protesting and resisting poisoned sprays and the undermining of life on Earth?
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Evaggelos Vallianatos is the author of several books, including Poison Spring, published in April 2014 by Bloomsbury Press.
Corporate and out-of-state Money defends timber industry’s right to poison Lincoln County environment and people
Letter to the editor.
Barbara Davis Co-Petitioner for Citizens for a Healthy County
Corporate and out-of-state Money defends timber industry’s right to poison Lincoln County environment and people
The Coalition to Defeat Measure 21-177, made up of timber and out-of-state chemical corporations, has raised $92,000 in corporate money to defeat Measure 21-177. Their April 3rd statement defaming the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) evades the real issues.
CELDF, a non-profit, public interest law firm, has provided free support for Measure 21-177 to ban aerial pesticide spraying in Lincoln County. CELDF works nationally and internationally with local communities fighting corporate harm to people and ecosystems. Thomas Linzey, executive director of CELDF, will speak in Newport’s Performing Arts Center on Friday, April 14, 6:30 p.m.
Measure 21-177 would secure the right of residents and visitors to be free from aerial
pesticide spraying (from an aircraft). Aerial spraying has been banned on federal forestland in Oregon for over 30 years since federal courts found that safety of the chemicals has never been proved. Measure 21-177 would extend that protection to Lincoln County.
Kai Huschke, Northwest Organizer for CELDF, says, “Measure 21-177 confronts corporate-devised, preemptive laws that block Lincoln County people from protecting their health, safety, and tourist economy.”
Measure 21-177 in Lincoln County follows a similar effort in Josephine County and a current effort in Lane County for a similar ballot measure in May 2018. Interest is also building in Curry and Yamhill counties.
The city of Depoe Bay has requested the state to halt the spraying of eight pesticides adjacent to the city water supply until the state provides valid, peer-reviewed studies of the effects of the eight products in combination with each other and in total. The City of Yachats has also been vocal in supporting Measure 21-177. The Coalition of Defeat speaks for none of these.
Exposing unsuspecting citizens to possible carcinogens is inhumane. I reside one mile east of the city of Gold Beach, Oregon, and have been exposed to aerial spraying over the past years. I have encountered serious illness while on my property during aerial herbicide applications. I have incurred thousands of dollars in medical expenses in addition to a loss of a productive life while recovering from these herbicide exposures. Anyone down wind of aerial spraying is subjected to chemical drift which can extend for miles. Without any notice, a helicopter appeared, barely allowing me time to run inside and close the windows in my home.
Subjecting individuals to these aerial assaults violates property owner's rights and should be a crime! Even an aerial spray that is carried out according to the Oregon Forest Practices Act and Pesticide Law can result in drift to nearby properties. By the time citizens like me report the problem to a state agency and an investigation is done, the harm to our health and property has already occurred. The Citizens of Lincoln County have a right to decide their future. Please vote: YES on Measure 21-177
I have documentation to support my allegations.
Forest Landowner Gold Beach
Hi, my name is Loren and I have a farm southeast of Lincoln City in the Schooner Creek watershed area, also a part of the Drift Creek watershed area depending on where you want to start. The big issue for me is that I was married to a younger, beautiful woman, a picture of health and an athlete, and she got directly sprayed by a helicopter with herbicides and right after that started having upper respiratory problems and continued with those upper respiratory problems for years to come. Prior to that she had no health issues like that at all. They just kept increasing in frequency until finally it became lung cancer. At the age of 44, she died of that lung cancer that spread to her bones, brain and lymph also. So that impacted my life and the lives of my three children.
Now my daughter is due in August and they live on the same piece of property and they are logging again and if the herbicides are sprayed there, I have grave concerns for what’s going to happen. What I’m saying, to give somebody a handful of poison and they die, and you give them half that and they still die, and you give them half of that and they get sick, and you keep going half and half and half until “Oh, we don’t see anything wrong.” Well at the molecular level there’s all kinds of things happening that are beyond anybody’s comprehension. Not only her, but the poor bees, they don’t know where property lines are and animals go into those areas. It’s all interconnected.
What I feel is why take a chance, why take a risk, for a dollar? Recalibrate your thinking, recalibrate how you want to approach things. Take into account the collateral damage that could happen. They logged for years and they didn’t use pesticides. Like I said, the timberland will come back. The herbicide just doesn’t magically disappear. The affect it has initially on anything it touches is to kill it and by whatever means it is killing, it can also have that affect on subsequent other plants, and/or species or animals. And someday, long after you and I are gone, somebody is going to look back and see how barbaric this is.
Loren Wand- Lincoln County sustainable farmer/
landscape consultant and project manager
Who's trying to defeat measure 21-177
A few local Lincoln County residents are voicing opposition to 21-177, the measure to ban aerial spraying, but the majority against the bill are not our residents, farmers or foresters.
Oregon Secretary of State’s website shows who organized and is funding the "Coalition to Defeat 21-177". The first red flag is that the treasurer, Carol A Russell, also serves on campaigns such as Umpqua Valley Republican Women’s PAC, Friends of Paul Savas, Citizens to Elect Dennis Richardson, etc. She is a treasurer for many Republican PACs throughout Oregon. It is unlikely that Lincoln County’s economy or the health of it’s citizens concern her, ostensibly never having been a resident.
The donation list isn’t populated by our friends and neighbors but instead the likes of Weyerhaeuser, along with "Oregonians for Food & Shelter", a front organization for Ag and Chem companies. Please look up “Oregonians for Food & Shelter PAC” on Oregon Secretary of State’s website so you can see for yourself the large donations made by Monsanto, Dow International, Simplex, Syngenta, Sprague Pest Solutions and others. These aren’t farmers or foresters but companies that profit from the sales of toxic chemicals.
Next we find a laundry list of Oregon Farm Bureau's aka fronts for big agriculture, a handful of timber companies, and a few individuals such as Rick Krohn, President of Western Helicopter Services.
Hilltop Public Solutions, a giant public relations firm, has received over $10,000 from the Coalition to Defeat 21-177, to provide, in their words, "What it takes to win". On their website they brag openly of how they subvert democracy through their lobbying efforts funded by hundreds of millions of corporate dollars. They will be the ones crafting misleading arguments, designing elegant websites and posters, and using every other political machination to deceive the voters.
Citizens of our county have spent their time and money trying to affect positive change and once again big business is trying to ensure that they can continue to harm our health and environment for their shareholder profits.
Recently I became aware that our own Lincoln County Commissioners have come out against measure 21-177 after having been pressured by corporate interests, in spite of a large volume of letters, emails, and phone calls urging them to reconsider. While I would not go so far as to suggest any ethical wrongdoing, I do find it interesting that the same Carol A Russell is listed as the treasurer for Terry Thompson’s 2016 primary election campaign.