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Toxic Air Testing

Farmers and parents in the Highway 36/Triangle Lake area west of Eugene have been fighting for years to put an end to toxic aerial sprays of pesticides by private timber companies that drift onto nearby homes and gardens. After residents, including children, in the Triangle Lake area tested positive for the chemicals atrazine and 2,4-D in their urine, the Oregon Health Authority and other agencies begin to investigate the drifting pesticide issue.

According to an update on the Hwy 36 Exposure Investigation sent out by Karen Bishop of the Public Health Division the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Region 10 has been seeking funding to develop “passive air samplers” that could be used in the investigation. Region 10’s grant proposal was accepted for an EPA “regional methods” grant, and the update says work on the air samplers will begin this summer. Passive air samplers do not require a pump to pull air over a collection device and are more easily deployed in more steep and remote parts of the Coast Range than heavier equipment.

Longtime pesticide protester and Pitchfork Rebellion founder Day Owen, who has been concerned about various hold-ups the investigation has faced, says, “We are happy that our work has led to the development of new equipment that can then be used not only here but all over the country.”

According to the grant proposal, atrazine and 2,4-D are usually cleared rapidly from the system, so the amounts that were found in the residents’ urine suggest ongoing exposure, and increases after recent aerial sprays were probably due to inhaling the spray as it drifted off the intended spray site. 

While passive air samplers exist for atrazine and 2,4-D, the grant seeks to develop air samplers for other herbicides frequently used by timber companies in western Oregon.