EUGENE — Exposure to two herbicides commonly used in forest management will be studied by Oregon health officials after they were found in residents of the Triangle Lake area of the Coast Range west of Eugene, The Register-Guard reported.
Gov. John Kitzhaber has taken an interest in the issue after the herbicides showed up in the urine of dozens of residents of the Highway 36 corridor, according to Oregon Department of Agriculture spokesman Bruce Pokarney.
Kitzhaber has directed health officials who are part of the state's Pesticide Analytical Response Center to take the lead in the study, Pokarney said.
Triangle Lake area resident Day Owen and a group of activists called the Pitchfork Rebellion have been complaining for more than seven years about the possibility that herbicides being aerially sprayed on nearby private forests may be drifting onto their land.
The group in the past has asked the state to investigate their concerns, staging rallies and protests, and attending meetings of government agencies, including the pesticide response board and the Oregon Board of Forestry.
But it wasn't until an April meeting of the forestry board, when the group presented proof of chemical exposure, that the state agreed to take a closer look. The board regulates logging and related practices on private timberlands in Oregon.
At that meeting, Dana Barr, a research professor at Emory University's Environmental and Occupational Health Department, told board members that she had found atrazine and 2,4-D — powerful herbicides — in the urine of all 21 residents who submitted samples to her lab. The samples were taken by a doctor, who forwarded them to the research lab.
When forestry board members asked Barr what the next step should be, she proposed a drift study, acknowledging it's not clear exactly how residents are being exposed.
Since the April meeting, Owen said, another 13 area residents have been tested for exposure and all of them showed traces of the same two herbicides.
State officials have not yet said how they'll do the study. But they say they expect a yearlong effort to examine the risk of exposure of area residents.
According to state records of pesticide use, atrazine and 2,4-D, were among the most common herbicides applied in Oregon 2008, the last year the state funded its reporting program. On the list of the 100 most used pesticides, 2,4-D ranked seventh and atrazine 18th.