SCIENCE -- September 12, 2012 at 6:03 PM ET
Oregonians Fear Harmful Effects From Timberland Herbicides
Eron King surveys where helicopters have sprayed herbicide, which contains harmful chemicals, near her home in Oregon. She and her children have tested positive for chemicals 2,4-D -- which was used in Agent Orange -- and atrazine. Courtesy: The Center for Investigative Reporting
When Eron King moved from Eugene, Ore. to a plot of land in the forest valley, she didn't expect that she and her children would be breathing in herbicides. She saw helicopters spraying cleared forest land one morning from her children's bedroom window.
This is a practice that happens twice a year and can take several hours. Oregon's $13 billion timber industry relies heavily on the state's most famous tree- the Douglas fir- and to ensure young Douglas fir seedlings survive on recently cleared lands, millions of pounds of herbicides are sprayed from a helicopter to kill competing plants.
But these chemicals don't stay in the forests. Recently, King and 37 other Oregonians who live near these woods tested positive for the compound 2,4-D -- which was used as an ingredient in Agent Orange -- and for the chemical atrazine. These chemicals are believed to have profound effects on human endocrine systems, especially in children.
"As soon as I hear the helicopters in the morning, I can call the kids inside," King said. "But, I mean, you can't just vacate the land within five minutes of hearing a helicopter. What about our animals? The goats, those are the big thing, and the chickens? Their barn is open."
On the NewsHour, The Center for Investigative Reporting looks at how Oregonians are trying to stop this practice. The Center for Investigative Reporting is a non-profit investigative news organization that contributes stories to the NewsHour.