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Historical concerns

Community members living in Oregon’s coastal mountains have raised concerns for years about the multiple pesticides used in industrial forest management practices. Specific concerns relate to the aerial spraying of pesticides on clear-cuts located near their homes and schools.

Residents are concerned about the effects these pesticides may have on their health, the health of their children, their animals and the environment.

Read about the community's concerns, including historical background, on page 40 of the Final Public Health Assessment.

History of the Exposure Investigation

In 2005, a community group called the Pitchfork Rebellion (PR) began requesting that the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) address their concerns about alleged pesticide exposures.

In February of 2010, PR petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct an unbiased study to determine what would be an appropriate aerial spray buffer zone for the specific conditions found along the Highway 36 Corridor in Lane County, Oregon. In the spring of 2011, community members organized to have their own urine samples analyzed for evidence of exposure (see below).

Spring 2011 community-collected urine

In the spring of 2011, several residents of the Triangle Lake/ Highway 36 area had their urine analyzed by a well-respected Emory researcher for the herbicides 2,4,D & atrazine. All samples came back positive, with an indication that levels of herbicides in some samples were significantly higher after nearby aerial applications than they were before.

The findings were presented at an Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) board meeting in April of 2011. ODF asked the Pesticide Analytical Response Center (PARC), of which the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is co-chair, to look into the matter. OHA was designated as the lead agency for the Exposure Investigation (EI), and has been working with the participating PARC agencies to develop and carry out the EI.

Participating agencies include: OHA, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ODF, Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and consultants from the Oregon State University (OSU) and Oregon Health & Sciences University (OHSU).

Read more about sampling.

Timeline of Exposure Investigation 

  • February 2010: A community group (the Pitchfork Rebellion) petitions EPA, requesting a pesticide drift study and for EPA to establish what would be an appropriate, protective buffer zone around homes and schools.
  • June 2010: EPA participates in a listening tour, meeting residents and other stakeholders.
  • September 2010; EPA requests the assistance of ATSDR to assess residents’ health concerns from local pesticide applications and to determine the best approach to address community health concerns. ODA asked ATSDR  to review past investigations by PARC.
  • January 20, 2011: Region 10 ATSDR conducted a tour of the Highway 36 Corridor and met with community members.
  • April 2011: Residents announce results of independent urine analysis at Board of Forestry meeting. The presentation showed  elevated levels of atrazine and 2,4,D in their urine. ODF notified PARC. As co-chair of PARC, OHA joined a multi-agency workgroup to develop the Highway 36 Corridor Exposure Investigation (EI). 
  • July 14, 2011: PARC agencies hosted a community meeting in Blachly, OR to present the EI design to community members, answer questions, listen to concerns and begin recruiting volunteers for the investigation. Approximately 140 community members attended the meeting, which was recorded and can be viewed on YouTube.
  • August 20-21, 2011: ATSDR and OHA collected 66 urine samples from 38 households participating in the Exposure Investigation.
  • September 19-23, 2011: EPA and DEQ collected water, soil & homegrown and wild food samples from the same 38 participating households.
  • October 2011: OHA requested pesticide application records from ODF and ODA for 2009, 2010 & 2011.
  • November 18, 2011: PARC agencies hosted an informational open house in Blachly. Approximately 60 residents came to  talk to agency staff, have their questions answered and learn more about the status of the investigation.
  • December 2011: ATSDR headquarters sends exposure investigation participants letters with their personal urine analysis results. Results showed everyone tested positive for 2,4-D, with levels ranging from 0.1 – 37 micrograms per liter. There were no detections of atrazine.
  • March 2012: ATSDR headquarters releases the results of the agency-collected urine sampling in a report titled Biological Monitoring for Exposure to Herbicides - Highway 36 Corridor. OHA announced the suspension of what was going to be the second phase of the investigation, which was to include a pre-post spray design.  
  • April 10, 2012: PARC hosted a community meeting in Blachly to explain the cancellation of the spring phase of the EI and to answer questions from community members about the report ATSDR headquarters had released. The meeting was recorded, and can be viewed on YouTube. Review the April 10 meeting agenda; download the presentation.
  • September 2012: OHA received investigation area pesticide application records for 2009, 2010 & 2011 from ODF and ODA.
  • December 2012: EPA sought funding to develop passive air samplers that could be used in the investigation area. The grant proposal was successful and they were awarded funding. EPA has begun the scientific development of the samplers.
  • May 9, 2013: OHA released a Public Health Assessment (PHA) on the Highway 36 Corridor Exposure Investigation (interim report) for public comment. Read the Draft Public Health Assessment.
  • May 28, 2013 PARC agencies hosted a community meeting in Blachly to present the findings and recommendations for next steps in the EI. Approximately 75 people attended the meeting. The meeting was recorded and can be viewed on YouTube. You can also see the meeting agenda and view OHA's presentation as well as EPA's update on the status of their air monitor development.
  • August 9, 2013: Public comment period closed for the Public Health Assessment.
  • November 13, 2014: OHA released the Final Public Health Assessment (PHA) on the Highway 36 Corridor Exposure Investigation, which incorporates changes made in response to public and agency comments.

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