Thanks go to Dr. Deke Gundersen, toxicologist, for a very informative presentation entitled “Pesticides and Environmental Justice: Impacts on Community Health” at the recent North Coast Communities for Watershed Protection event held in Rockaway Beach.
People from as far away as Astoria and Lincoln City attended this event, and many of them said that Gundersen made toxicology understandable. They appreciated that he talked about our concerns regarding exposure to the pesticides used in industrial forestry practices.
Gundersen emphasized that these are usually mixtures of four to six chemicals and that there is very little testing or knowledge available about what happens when they are combined. With mixtures of several chemicals, there can be a synergistic effect, meaning that the mixture may be far more potent that any one chemical by itself. Also, there is very little testing for the presence of these chemicals in our water; therefore, it’s hard to know if, on a long-term basis, our water is safe to drink.
Air and soil are also not tested adequately for the presence of harmful chemicals. There is currently no DEQ air monitoring on the North Coast. Gundersen validated our concerns that the spraying of pesticides as a part of industrial forestry is a public health issue that can put at risk our health and the health of fish and other wildlife.
Furthermore, Gundersen questioned the need for the use of pesticides, since there is research showing that trees can be grown well without them. He also gave us some ideas as to what we could be doing in our local communities. He suggested we could form an advisory board of experts from the fields of toxicology, forestry, law, fish and wildlife, and policy and public health. He agreed to be the first person on this advisory board.
Another possibility is for us to collect raw data from local people regarding their health in the last 10 years so that an epidemiological study could be done tracking local health problems within our population. A number of times, Gundersen emphasized the importance of the NCCWP “Speaking Truth To Power” talks that help to educate people about harmful industrial forestry practices. He happened to mention that during his overnight stay down here at the coast, he questioned whether or not he should even drink the local water. We are indeed very fortunate to have him as a knowledgeable resource.
Thanks also go to Ephraim Payne from Beyond Toxics for filming Gundersen’s talk. Payne will be making a short documentary about Gundersen for Beyond Toxics, and he will produce a version of it that we at NCCWP can share. Thanks again to Beyond Toxics for their help. More information about their work can be found at beyondtoxics.org
Our name, North Coast Communities for Watershed Protection (formerly known as Rockaway Beach Citizens for Watershed Protection), reflects our working together on a regional basis to ensure that the air we breathe and the water we drink are safe.