Chemically sensitive? Get on the list

Island County officials want to make sure citizens adversely affected by chemicals take full advantage of a state law set up to protect them.

When county commissioners decided last April to forego the use of herbicides in the county’s roadside vegetation management program, they were capitulating in part to months of political pressure from “chemically sensitive” individuals calling for an end to what they deemed the application of poison in their immediate surroundings.

However, the so-called chemically sensitive — those physically intolerant of toxins in the environment — did not received full amnesty through the county’s new no-spray policy. The state still sprays herbicides in certain areas managed by the Department of Transportation, and county road crews use chemicals to treat roads prior to laying down asphalt.

Such a profusion of chemicals might lead the chemically sensitive to despair were it not for “the list,” a state program whereby individuals with compromised immune systems can register to be notified any time licensed sprayers will be laying down chemicals in their neighborhood.

It is the goal of certain Island County officials, such as Commissioner Bill Thorn and Roads Engineer Dick Snyder, to alert chemically sensitive residents to existence of this list. Snyder said the issue came about after a Camano woman who didn’t know about the list was affected by the county’s spraying.

“Bill and I thought maybe there are some people out there that should get on the list,” Snyder said Tuesday. “There are people in the county that have concerns about the health issues surrounding pesticides, and we want to help those people that have concerns to get on the state sensitive list.”

Thorn has been an advocate for reducing the proliferation of chemicals in the environment.He played a key role in the board’s April decision to lay down a no-spray policy for the county’s roads management program.“I think that we have been too free with that,” Thorn said of the general use of chemicals. “This at the very least is an appropriate precautionary measure for the county, to have backed off on the roadside spraying.”

Thorn said he wants to “let people know that there is a state registry” for immune-compromised individuals, “and if they are particularly sensitive to chemicals, to make sure that they’re on that list.”

The list was started in 1992 following a law passed in the state Legislature the previous year. It is managed by the state Dept. of Agriculture’s division of pesticide management. Currently there are about active 125 names (represented as numbers) registered on the list, six of whom reside in Island County.

Kathi Matherly is one of the DOA officials administering the list in Olympia. She said since the list’s inception, over 300 numbers have been issued. The list is mailed out twice a year to licensed chemical applicators throughout the list.

“It was mostly set up for people in urban areas and small half lots,” Matherly said of the list. The way the law was written, people on the registry must be notified any time chemicals are going to be applied on property adjacent to or abutting their homes and within a certain distance.

People on the list are notified no later than two hours prior to chemicals being applied in their vicinity.

Matherly said folks interested in getting on the list should contact her department. Once contacted, registration forms are sent out immediately. Returned forms must include a doctor’s certification of chemical sensitivity, plus a description of the registering party’s residence and the address of abutting and adjacent properties.

Folks just getting on the list can request that revised lists be sent out to nearby chemical applicators, Matherly said.

“Usually the applications filter in throughout the year,” she said. “Everything’s just as updated as I can get it.”

Sometimes, Matherly said, it’s the sprayers who take the initiative of checking for chemically sensitive individuals in their area. “Licensed persons often ask me for an updated list, so people are being really conscientious,” she said.

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