4. AGENT WHITE
When Agent Orange, that now well-known chemical killer, wasn't strong
enough to do the job in Vietnam, the U.S. Army brought in a defoliant
known as Agent White.
Agent White is a powerful pesticide manufactured and sold by Dow Chemical
under the trade name or Tordon. It is an agricultural chemical called
picloram. Tordon products are so poisonous that the EPA, which registers
more than 2,000 pesticides, classifies Tordon as one of 37 "restricted
use" pesticides. It can be lawfully applied only by trained applicators
with a special permit. Nonetheless it is one of the more popular broad-leaf
and woody-brush killers used.
It is used most heavily in forested rural areas like Cherokee County,
N.C. Now, Cherokee County residents believe that picloram, liberally
applied to forest and farmland from one end of Cherokee to the other
for as long as anyone can remember, is washing off the land and poisoning
the ground-water supplies from which most county residents draw their
water. And, they believe it is killing more than vegetation.
In 1976, almost one in seven people died in Cherokee from cancer, a
figure below the national average. By 1979, nearly one in four died
of cancer countywide -- 60 percent above the nation's average and nearly
double the state average. Since 1979, Cherokee physicians say cancer-related
deaths appear to be even more numerous.
But Dow Chemical claims that Tordon is no more lethal than table salt.
Dow bases its evidence on two studies done by Industrial Biotest Labs
of Illinois (see "Fraudulent Testing Provides Illusion of Safety"
synopsis) and a third by GulfSouth Research Institute, All three studies
were found to be grossly deficient and extremely questionable.
The fears of Cherokee County was supported by Dr. Melvin Reuber, considered
to be one of the nation's best pathologists working with carcinogenic
chemicals entering the environment. His research, reported in a paper
titled "Carcinogenicity of Picloram," published in the Journal
of Toxicology and Environmental Health, contradicted the findings of
Gulf South and Dow researchers.
Tordon is used from coast to coast not only by governmental agencies
but privately as well. The people of Cherokee County and other rural
areas deserve to be warned by their government of the possible long
term effects of picloram spraying -- and offered the opportunity to
say "don't spray." But since the EPA appears lax in furnishing
the public with such warnings, it should be up to the news media to
sound the alarm.
SOURCE: Inquiry, 3/15/82, "Agent White: It Kills Weeds, Bushes,
Trees -- and Maybe People," by Keith Schneider.