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Originally published October 31 2014

Oregon favors timber industry over resident safety, allowing them to be sprayed by deadly weed killer

by Julie Wilson staff writer

(NaturalNews) Oregonians have little protection when it comes to being sprayed by deadly weed killer, causing many to suffer from immediate and long-term health effects following sudden exposure.

The state's cozy relationship with the timber industry has resulted in weak legislation that pretty much allows free-for-all chemical spraying on more than 165 square miles of land, greater than the size of Portland, reports Oregon Live.

Helicopter pilots are expected to use discretion when spraying chemicals on clearcuts throughout the state, meaning they have the personal authority to decide whether they're spraying too close to a residence.

An intensive review of four neighboring state laws regarding chemical application by The Oregonian found that they do much more in terms of protecting the public and the environment from chemical drifts.

Oregon's weak regulation on chemical applications allows people and animals to become sick and permanently injured

Neighboring states, such as Washington, enforce mandated buffer zones banning herbicide application within 200 feet of a person's home, but Oregon hasn't required protective buffer zones since the Board of Forestry removed them in 1996.

Idaho and Washington both define acceptable wind speeds for aerial spraying, but Oregon doesn't. Some report seeing choppers spray in winds so high that it appeared as though they might crash.

While Washington and California notify residents prior to sprays, the only warning for Oregonians is the sound of an approaching helicopter. Nearby water treatment plants do receive a warning, however.

The state's media response to the reckless application of harmful herbicides began after dozens of Oregonians reported being sprayed by weedkiller at or near their homes last October. Simply trying to enjoy nature in their own backyards, many residents say they felt chemicals hit their faces as the roaring sound of helicopters quickly approached.

Atrazine, 2, 4-D and glyphosate are among some of the chemicals used by the timber industry, all of which have been linked to very harmful and lasting health effects.

One infant vomited for 24 hours straight, while others reported burning in their eyes, throat and mouth. John Burns, a local firefighter chief, said he was caught working in his yard when the choppers flew overhead, releasing a thick wave of chemicals. He still experiences tightness in his chest a year later.

"We feel we've been violated tremendously and the state still won't do anything for us," said Burns. "We want the regulations and laws changed -- at least brought up to the standards of our surrounding states."

Unfortunately, people aren't the only victims. Following one incident near Gold Beach, Oregon, horses were blinded and some dogs were unable to walk, reports Beyond Toxics, a Eugene-based environmental group.

Aerial spraying has increased nearly 20 percent since 2010

"Oregon has a history of regarding aerial spraying as simply a common tool in the tool chest, as if it's somehow a commonplace, safe activity," said Lisa Arkin, executive director of Beyond Toxics. "Other states see it for what it is -- a hazardous activity."

The state doesn't even require the timber industry to report how many pounds of herbicide they're using annually. In 2008, the last year it was documented, 800,000 pounds of herbicide was sprayed on forestland.

Oregon state law doesn't require agencies to investigate complaints regarding forestry practices either, which include chemical spraying. The lack of regulation also makes it extremely difficult for residents to file suit over what they consider "chemical trespass."

Timber industry: More stringent regulations in neighboring states aren't better

"There are still complaints in Washington, there are still concerns in Washington. It's a more difficult, onerous system without more benefit," said Scott Dahlman with Oregonians for Food and Shelter, a representative for the timber and chemical industry. However, Oregon Live reports that Washington has only receive one complaint since 2012.

When state officials were asked if they thought Oregon's laws needed to be tightened, they dodged the question, saying the issue is "politically sensitive."

Click here to read the first part of this Natural News report by Julie Wilson.


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