Letters to the Editor

County policy: Docs say spare us from spray

An open letter to the Island County Commissioners.

Most people want to stay healthy, and they make choices to support and improve their health. As health care professionals we are writing to urge you to make an important public health decision at this time: Help us stop the unnecessary roadside spraying of herbicides. This would be preventive medicine on a scale beneficial to all of us.

There is a long history of wide use of a chemical, thought to be harmless enough, which eventually was studied more closely and found to be so dangerous that its use is prohibited. The EPA is doing its best to monitor and test, but unfortunately we do not have complete toxicity data on many herbicides. We should also remember that even when EPA finds a health threat, it can continue to allow the use of a chemical.

Pesticides classified as carcinogens are often still allowed. For example, EPA classifies Diuron as a known/likely carcinogen and yet it has been sprayed along Island County roads. Those chemicals that have been tested have mostly been evaluated one at a time. Yet often herbicides are used in combinations. This allows unacceptable risk since most combinations have not been tested.

There is evidence that the combined effects of chemicals are greatly multiplied compared to the effects of individual herbicides. In addition, the majority of testing has not taken into account the unique susceptibilities of children and developing fetuses. Smaller amounts of chemicals can have greater impact when these young ones are considered.

As stewards of the public health, we in the health care professions must point out that these factors are of significant concern.

These facts and uncertainties lead us to question the safety of the commissioners’ preliminary choice to spray herbicides along roadsides in our county. Recognizing that there are known and unknown risks, herbicide use should be eliminated. We support the work of the Whidbey/Camano Island No Spray Coalition and their mission, “To end toxic chemical spraying in Island County and thereby preserve and improve the health of the islands’ ecosystems, wildlife, air and water quality, and human population.”

Given that there are economically feasible alternatives to herbicide spraying of our roadsides, we urge you to choose the no spray alternative immediately and spare all of Island County’s citizens from unnecessary spraying and the health risks that go with these chemicals.

Sally Goodwin, M.D.; John Douglas Allderdice, M.D.; Petter Bennett, M.D.; Hope Fay, N.D.; David Goodwin, D.D.S.; Robert Jangaard, N.D.; Betsy MacGregor, M.D.; Steven Morris, N.D.; Frederick Prael, D.D.S.; Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, N.D.; Ed Severinghaus, M.D.; Robert Ullman, N.D.; Brad Weeks, M.D. Leslie Cotter, M.D.; Thomas Harris, M.D.

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