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Peeing Toxic Chemicals

The chemical atrazine can turn a boy frog into a girl frog. It’s a pesticide commonly used in forestry that’s been found in the urine of residents of Triangle Lake, a rural community in the Coast Range west of Eugene. Residents have been trying for years to put an end to the aerial sprays that they say drift on to the farms and homes, as well as manual pesticide applications that can affect drinking water. 

Oregon’s PARC (Pesticide Analytical Response Center) will be holding a town hall meeting at 6:30 pm Tuesday, April 10, at the Blachly Grange Hall to discuss a pesticide exposure investigation that began in the spring of 2011.

“We have no idea what their purpose is in holding a meeting,” says Amy Pincus Merwin of STOP Oregon (Standing Together to Outlaw Pesticides). She says she is frustrated with PARC and what she sees as a lack of effort over the past 30 years by the agency to listen to those who are affected by the sprays, and to deal with the issue. 

PARC began to investigate the pesticide exposure issue after a study by Emory University researcher Dana Barr showed 2,4-D and atrazine in the urine samples of Triangle Lake area residents. This “sparked concern among public health officials,” PARC says. Atrazine is an endocrine disrupter, meaning it can interfere with the hormonal system, and 2,4-D is an ingredient in Agent Orange.

Rather than use Barr’s data, PARC began its own study. But on March 8, PARC announced the spring 2012 urine and environmental sample collection was suspended. 

PARC says the study was suspended because it was “not able to recruit enough participants to ensure that the data resulting from the effort are a valid test of potential exposure among local residents,” citing the study area’s remote nature with “few residents.”

“The industry thwarted the study, as we predicted they would,” says Eron King of STOP. The pesticide spray foes say once the timber industry became aware of the study, it simply didn’t spray atrazine in the areas to be tested.

PARC is now asking residents who participated in the Barr study to allow their data to be used by the agency, according to an email from Karen Bishop of PARC to Day Owen of the Pitchfork Rebellion, another group fighting the toxic exposures. PARC is setting up meetings on April 9 for residents who wish their data to be used.

“They had previously refused four times over a six-month period to even look at the Barr study urine sample results,” Owen says. He adds, “I am happy that they are taking this one step in the right direction but we want more. We want them to not just look at the results, we want them to take action and stop the poisoning.”

King says PARC will also be conducting “passive air sampling,” but that the agency stressed that this was “not a drift study.”  Pesticide drift means that the toxics sprays can move from what they are supposed to target, such as a clearcut, onto another area, such as an organic farm or a home.

The April 10 PARC meeting at the grange is open to the public. Owen says those wishing to carpool from Eugene can contact him at greenlion@pitchforkrebellion.com

“We need to make them know we are not giving up on this,” King says. For more information on the PARC study go to http://wkly.ws/18i