Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Rural Oregonians fear harmful effects of a timber herbicide that has been found in their bloodstreams

Rowan King, 11, tested positive for the
dangerous chemicals used in spraying
timber (CIR photo by Serene Fang)
Six years ago, Eron King, an artist and young mother, moved from the edge of Eugene, Ore., to a creekside plot of forest valley so her two boys could grow up raising hens and Toggenburg goats. She wasn’t na├»ve about rural life in the Coast Ranges, where she’d lived for nine years, writes Ingrid Lobet for the Center for Investigative Reporting, but she encountered the unexpected.

"The state’s western third is timber country. The tractor-trailer rigs hauling logs – some as thin as poles, others as fat as pier pilings – were no shock to her. 'I knew clear-cutting happened,' she said in a cadence that signals comfort with the realities of a life outdoors. But like many residents of the region, King was unaware that major timber companies – Weyerhaeuser, Roseburg Resources, Stimson Lumber, Seneca Jones and others – have been spraying millions of pounds of herbicide on their private forestland in Oregon. Some of it, she believes, is carried by the winds and lands on her property. Her worry about the spraying has turned into genuine alarm. King and her two children, along with their father and 37 other residents, last year submitted their urine for laboratory testing. The results were startling: Every person tested positive for the compound 2,4-D – made famous as an ingredient of Agent Orange – and for the chemical atrazine."

Lobet notes that while as many as 100,000 residents live near privately owned forests in rural Oregon, the herbicide is an essential tool for the timber industry. Without it, much forestland would not be profitable. Still, Terry Witt, who for 25 years was executive director of Oregonians for Food and Shelter, a trade group for the timber, agriculture and chemicals industries, said: “If there's data that shows that the practices need to be altered or changed, the industry is more than willing to look at what recommendations or change in practices could be employed.” But Witt added: “We believe that if it’s done responsibly and legally, it does not represent unreasonable harm.” Greg Miller of Weyerhaeuser said skilled personnel know how to take into account conditions such as temperature and wind. The applications are done according to the law, Miller claims. But those words have not placated the rural Oregon residents who are convinced -- with scientific proof in their hands and a federal forest system that stopped the spraying practice 20 years ago as precedent -- that the industry can do more to protect them. (Read more)

No comments: