Unfounded claims

Posted: Sunday, August 12, 2001

In a recent letter to the Chilkat Valley News, Jim Tuttle of Klukwan Inc. attempted to justify the corporation's proposed spraying of the herbicides glyphosate and imazapyr on Long Island. He claimed that these herbicides are "safe," yet offers no scientific information to support his claim.

Klukwan Corporation's assertion about the safety of these herbicides is very close to claims made by the chemical manufacturers, Monsanto (glyphosate) and American Cyanamid (imazapyr). Monsanto has been caught at least twice for breaking the national pesticide law for false advertising about glyphosate. Monsanto falsely claimed that glyphosate degrades "soon after application" and that it is "safer than table salt."

Alaska Community Action on Toxics, a nonprofit organization focused on environmental health issues, prepared referenced comments on the proposed herbicide application. Klukwan proposes to spray 1,646 acres of Long Island with the herbicides glyphosate and imazapyr. Contrary to Klukwan Corporation's claims, these herbicides are persistent and toxic. Both herbicides adversely affect water quality and soil productivity. Glyphosate is acutely toxic to fish. Studies demonstrate that the spraying of glyphosate in forested areas causes declines in bird and mammal populations. People exposed to glyphosate may experience eye irritation, blurred vision, numbness, heart problems, congestion, headache and nausea. Recent studies show association with increased risk of miscarriages, premature birth, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. One of the breakdown products of imazapyr, quinolinic acid, is toxic to the nervous system and causes symptoms similar to Huntington's disease.

We recommend that the state of Alaska deny Klukwan's request to spray herbicides. This is an area used by the people of Hydaburg for harvesting of medicinal plants, berries and fish. The state of Alaska must respect the resolutions and authority of the local federally recognized tribes in their opposition to the herbicide spraying. The people of Hydaburg and others are justifiably speaking out to protect traditional use areas and the health of the people.

The proposed herbicide spraying poses an unnecessary threat to water quality, wildlife and human health. Children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of these chemicals. Reasonable and economical alternatives to herbicide spraying should be taken. Employment of knowledgeable local people to manually remove unwanted vegetation is the wise and prudent alternative.

Pamela Miller


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