For rural Oregonians, protections from herbicides come up short

This web exclusive appeared on hcn.org April 28, 2015:

In October of 2013, a helicopter sprayed a cocktail of herbicides over four clearcuts in a valley north of Gold Beach, Oregon, a coastal community at the mouth of the Rogue River. Logging companies rely on the practice to keep weeds and shrubs from outcompeting tree seedlings. The chemicals, though – including 2,4-D, an ingredient in Agent Orange – spread beyond their intended targets. As Rebecca Clarren reported in a cover story for High Country News last November, 35 nearby residents fell ill on the same day, reporting diarrhea, rashes, nosebleeds, bleeding lungs, and sickened animals.

Complaints about pesticide drift are nothing new in Oregon communities abutting private timber lands, where the spraying occurs; the state’s rules governing the practice are the weakest on the West Coast. But the high profile Gold Beach incident added urgency to rural residents’ and environmentalists’ calls for reform. More…

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