GUEST VIEWPOINT: Herbicides are spawning a tragedy
BY BARBARA KELLEY AND KIM KAUFFMAN
Published: (Tuesday, Sep 6, 2011
Laboratory confirmation of powerful toxic chemicals found in the bodies of Triangle Lake residents, while shocking, is not surprising to us. Citizens throughout Oregon have pleaded for decades for an end to this “rain of terror.”
Ever since Agent Orange (2,4-D plus 2,4,5-T) was brought home after the Vietnam War, the forest industry has been using herbicides originally designed for chemical warfare. Dr. Michael Newton of Oregon State University ordered these chemicals from the Air Force to destroy “unwanted vegetation” that competed with Oregon’s commercial crop, Douglas fir, for sun and soil. This practice has resulted in toxic contamination of water, soil, air, wildlife, plants and people.
Although the Environmental Protection Agency stopped 2,4,5-T in an emergency cancellation, the use of 2,4-D has continued unabated, and indeed is one of the most widely used toxic chemicals in America. It is 2,4-D and Atrazine that were found in the urine of Triangle Lake residents, even children. The newspapers have been filled with letters on this subject. Some herbicide victims have written entire books on the war against these poisons, having experienced illness and the death of animals.
Our organization won a federal lawsuit in 1983. It was later combined on appeal with Vietnam veteran Paul Merrell’s case against the U.S. Forest Service, and was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1984. The court’s ruling concluded, “The entire spraying program of both agencies should be halted until they comply with NEPA,” the National Environmental Policy Act.
Several lawsuits in a row came during the 1970s and ’80s, all of them victorious. Herbicide spraying of public forests became illegal — but the cessation was temporary, and the spray programs on private forests have never even paused.
Our own lawsuit, Save Our ecoSystems vs. Clark, was recently declared “moot” (or cancelled) without notifying us, by entities unknown to us. Also cancelled without notification was the Southern Oregon Citizens Against Toxic Sprays case preceding ours, certified by the U.S. Supreme Court when it refused a further hearing to the opponents.
It matters not whether the herbicides’ target is “invasive species” or the “unwanted growth” of non-commercial trees, the results are the same: the environment and our health are being sacrificed. Scientific information is readily available about the chemicals’ toxicity, their role in cancer and birth defects; their effect on frogs, bees and other wildlife; and their effects on dogs, our water and the entire environment. Encyclopedic information is available from us (firstname.lastname@example.org) or from dozens of other environmental organizations. Beware of disinformation from those who profit from the manufacture, dissemination and use of these dangerous chemicals.
One of our struggles with these sprays started back in the 1970s. Barbara Kelley moved from smoggy Los Angeles to a lovely spot in the Cascade foothills. Beautiful Oregon! But the logging started, the giant trees came crashing down, and the mountain shook. Later the herbicide spraying began, and the air was filled with a terrible stench. The postmistress in Dorena said she could see the helicopters spraying just above Barbara’s farm, and the required notice was posted on her bulletin board.
Kelley’s little paradise became a death valley; many of her animals died, and she would never be the same. She developed a lifelong case of diabetes, although she weighed 130 pounds at the time, worked all day, and had no diabetes in her family. A little research and the acquisition of an Environmental Impact Statement led her to realize that she had been poisoned by Agent Orange, which can cause diabetes. Vietnam veterans who were exposed and contracted diabetes were, and are, compensated.
Kelley’s dream collapsed, she buried her dead and moved. She then started a non-profit organization — Save Our ecoSystems Inc., or SOS. Members wrote newspaper columns, talked to classes, went to Washington, D.C., stopped the spraying of 2,4-D and Atrazine on public school grounds, sued the federal government, and won.
Triangle Lake residents are tucked into a valley that is mercilessly sprayed with herbicides. We congratulate them on proving that these very toxic chemicals have invaded their bodies. To trespass upon the bodies of others is surely a crime, and we believe it should be treated as such. We cannot wait for those who take it upon themselves to spray toxic chemicals into the environment to reform themselves. We believe that our governor should use his authority to issue an executive order. There is a tragedy before him. We want him to save the beautiful state of Oregon, its environment and the health of its people.
Barbara Kelley, formerly of Eugene, is the founder of Save Our ecoSystems Inc. She currently lives in Lake Oswego. Kim Kauffman is a board member of SOS.