Allegheny Defense Project ...working for the protection of the natural heritage of the Alleghenies...

Hellbender Journal Autumn 2002

Notice alerting hikers of Oust spraying in the Allegheny National Forest. Photo by Rachel Martin

Herbicides:

Round 'em Up and Oust 'em Out

By Richard Whiteford

Since 1986 the U.S. Forest Service has sprayed the herbicides Oust and Roundup on over 13,000 acres of the Allegheny National Forest. After shaving the hills naked of the native trees and plants they cover the ground with it to prevent nature from replenishing her natural splendor.

So, by the thousands of acres, the U.S. Forest Service is destroying the natural diversity of our national forest with poison to create a one species tree farm of black cherry because that's what's lucrative right now. Not only will a one species forest devastate bird and animal populations, but also using Roundup and Oust could have far greater consequences on humans living downstream.

The manufacturer of Oust, E.I. du Ponte de Nemours & Co. and the manufacturer of Roundup, Monsanto, claim that these products are safe. However, a report from Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) reveals quite a different picture.

Roundup (Glyphosate) and Oust (Sulfometuron Methyl) are broad-spectrum herbicides that are acutely toxic to animals and humans. They reduce populations of beneficial insects, birds, and small mammals by destroying vegetation on which they depend for food and shelter and wreak havoc on wildlife food chains. They also increase plant susceptibility to disease and reduce the growth of nitrogen-fixing bacteria and can cause a dramatic shift in the distribution and diversity of native plants.

Oust is extremely potent. It takes less than a ten-thousandth of an ounce per square foot of ground to effectively kill plants. Laboratory studies found Roundup to have adverse effects at different levels of toxicology testing. Medium-term toxicity produces salivary gland lesions. Long-term toxicity causes inflamed stomach linings, an increased frequency of pancreas and liver tumors in male rats, and thyroid cancer in female rats. It causes reduced sperm counts in rats and abnormal sperm in rabbits. Research at Texas Tech University showed that Roundup fed to mice caused a decrease in the production of sex hormones and a 90 percent reduction of testicle cell production. In humans it causes genetic damage to blood cells, and some farmers who spray Roundup experience an increased risk of miscarriages, premature birth, and the cancer non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Similarly, rats that ate Oust over a ten-day period developed problems with their testes. Some developed unusually small testes or testicular lesions.

Dogs that were exposed to Oust for a longer period of time suffered the same maladies.

Rats that inhaled a very small dose of Roundup started gasping, got congested eyes, became inactive and lost weight. Their lungs were red or blood-congested. Higher doses caused lung damage and death. Dogs that were given Roundup intravenously experienced cardiac depression.

Pregnant rabbits that ate Oust became anorexic, depressed, and thin; their pregnancies ended in miscarriages. The fetuses in rabbits that were given very high doses were completely resorbed.

Studies show that two of the chemicals produced by the breakdown of sulfometuron methyl in goats, sulfanilamide and saccharin have been associated with cancer and genetic damage in laboratory tests. Sulfonilamide causes mutations in bacteria Escherichia coli and invasive lung tumors in rats. Saccharin induces bladder cancer in rats and chromatid exchanges in human cells.

Both Oust and Roundup have been found in streams following forestry and agricultural applications. They are highly toxic to fish and young fish are more sensitive than older fish. The toxicity of Roundup increases as water temperature rises and toxicity rates doubled in rainbow trout and bluegills in water at 7 and 17 degrees C (45 and 63 degrees F).

U p to 1/3 of the lethal concentrations of Roundup caused erratic swimming and labored breathing in trout, making them more susceptible to predation. Less than 1 percent of the lethal concentration caused gill damage in carp and less than 2 percent caused changes in liver structure. Roundup killed over 50 percent of three species of beneficial insects: a parasitoid wasp, a lacewing, and a ladybug and it killed over 80 percent of a predatory beetle.

After spraying Roundup on a clearcut in Maine, 89 percent of the plant-eating insects died; insects that are food for birds and small mammals. Spraying Roundup over large areas has a dramatic impact on bird populations. Birds depend on plants for food, shelter, and nesting. Clearcut areas in Maine and Nova Scotia experienced serious population drops in the two most common birds, the white-throated sparrow and the common yellowthroat, for two years after spraying. Grouse avoid treated areas for several years after spraying.

In Canada 46 percent of plants serving as important food for moose, up to 40 percent of the plants eaten by elk, and 36 percent of the plants eaten by mule deer were severely damaged from Roundup. Roundup is extremely persistent in the soil. In forestry sites where it is used, it has been detected up to 3 years after application. Streams are contaminated in forests in Washington and Oregon where timber companies use Roundup.

Oust inhibited five out of eleven soil microorganisms that play a vital role in creating humus, aerating the soil, and maintaining the ecological balance of the soil. Soil studies show that Oust can persist in soil up to a year depending upon the soil type. Under dry windy conditions Oust can travel miles from where it was applied. In 1985 in Franklin County, Washington Oust was applied to 700 miles of roadsides. Wind blew the dry contaminated soil and caused over a million dollars of crop damage.

From microscopic bacteria to moose nothing is exempt from the effects of Oust and Roundup. Herbicide spraying and clearcutting the Allegheny National Forest for the purpose of economic profit is in direct violation of the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resource Planning Act. Our national forests are here for the enjoyment of our families and future generations, but not to become a cherry tree farm. The Forest Service should restore and protect our forests, not destroy them.

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