Friday, December 3, 2010

Doused by weed killer - what next?

One day my young children and I were outside on our farm in rural Missouri. We noticed our neighbor's tractor coming toward us, but since farmers often have their tractors out and about working their land this really was no surprise.

As the tractor growled its way toward us we could see a haze around it. It was dry, and the wind was blowing so I assumed the haze was dust from the dried field. The tractor got to the corner of the field and turned and I felt something damp hit my arm and face and I realized what was happening - the farmer was spraying something and the stiff wind was carrying it to us, soaking us and everything else in its path as we inhaled the fog.

I had no way to get my kids into the house as the plume of spray stood between us and the back door... and it was moving toward us. I rushed the kids into the barn and screamed for them to stay put while I closed the door and ran to bring in my pregnant mare and other horses and expectant ewe. I put the neck of my t-shirt over my mouth and ran. I got the horses haltered and ran to the barn, through the spray while trying desperately to flap my arms and yell to the farmer to stop. The neighbor looked at me and kept on his merry way, dousing me with whatever he was spraying.

In the past we had asked our neighbor to contact us whenever he planned to put anything on his field so we could put the horses in where they would be safe, and so we could be gone. He had agreed, making me a happy smiley neighbor. Despite that plea and my crazy waving and flapping and running with horses in hand he continued his task of dousing his field - and mine and everything in it - with chemicals.

When he had passed us, we waited for the spray to clear, then ran for the house. I was afraid to touch the car because it was damp with chemicals as was the door to the house. I grabbed the doorknob and stripped the kids to their underwear and ran them upstairs to the shower. When they were done I showered myself and wondered aloud what to do with our contaminated clothes.

Then it hit me - call the neighbor and find out what was being sprayed, and then call the university extension office to find out if I needed to rush my kids to the doctor or call poison control or what I should do.

The chemical I learned, was Roundup - a weedkiller and surfacant designed to kill nearly everything it touched.

The county Extension agent I spoke with chuckled at the urgency in my voice, telling me that Roundup was "non-toxic" and totally safe. Not only would it not harm either me or my children despite our dousing, but my pregnant animals would have no negative effects either. Don't worry about cleaning my car or my doorknobs etc, as it is designed to break down naturally, with no toxic residues.

So I did as I was told. We washed the laundry (I washed it twice just to be on the safe side) and did not go to the doctor. I called the neighbor and tried to be calm as I let him know how unhappy I was that my family and animals had been doused in his overspray. I reminded him that we'd asked for him to notify us when he planned to put chemicals on his field so we could protect our animals, but he suddenly saw no need to notify us of his plans stating what he'd sprayed was completely harmless.

In the following years that we lived there, we were heavily doused twice with Roundup and once lightly with ammonia. Each time I let the farmer know how much I appreciated our chemical bath and each time he insisted they were completely harmless.

Since that time several years ago, Monsanto has created genetically modified corn and soybeans that are resistant to the Roundup spray - called Roundup Ready Crops. This means that most of the food we eat has been sprayed with the chemical and surfacant combination.

According to this shocking physician's article - since that time several years ago, the chemicals in Roundup have been found to cause cell death within 24 hrs of exposure, as well as genetic damage. What's worse than that? The surfacant that is mixed with the chemicals is actually even more dangerous than the chemical itself. Put the two together and it's a double whammy. The active ingredient in Roundup - glyphosate - is the most commonly-reported cause of 'pesticide illness' among landscape maintenance workers in California. Residues from this chemical cocktail are apparently found in many of the foods we are eating, as well as the food the animals we consume are eating. Remember, you are what you eat.

So that leaves me wondering about the legacy of my 'chemical baths', and the 'baths' my children took with me. I am very sensitive to chemicals - I didn't start out like that. We have many similar illnesses. Granted many of those can be explained by a possible genetic connection. But if this stuff changes DNA and kills cells, that can't be good. I sit here 4 years or so into chronic bronchitis that has continued to worsen and I can't help but think about the fog I breathed into my sensitive tissues. Did it harm me? How will I know? In the past I have figured that what's done is done and can't be changed, and I've ignored it. But that was when I was assured the stuff was 100% harmless. Now I know differently.

Have you ever been exposed to toxic chemicals in a strange manner like this? What chemicals were they? What was the outcome? Do you experience lasting effects from the exposure?
Comment by Winnyninnypoopoo on December 5, 2010 at 12:52am
I grew up in a "modern" family farm in Northwest Missouri. Rather than listing what I have been exposed to, it is probably easier to list what I haven't been exposed to. Many of these chemicals never leave your body. I am supersensitive to pesticides so avoid using them at all costs.

My father used to spray parathion (a nerve agent used as a pesticide) on a tractor with no protection. He said there weren't any warnings back in the 1950's and 1960's about skin absorbtion or side effects. My younger brother and I laugh because we can tell by how we react what kind of pesitcide is being sprayed - kind of like wine tasters but ickier. Can't do much about it once you have been exposed.

Of my father's generation of farmers, a great many are dead of cancer (my father at 58), How much of that is due to chemical exposure would be conjecture, but I am sure it did not help.
Comment by Ellen S on December 5, 2010 at 3:23am
This was in the 90's - recent enough they should have known better (frustration talking). To make it worse, we all showered in nice hot water to get clean. Oy, if I'd only known then what I know now. Opening up our pores with the heat to let all that ickiness right in. Sheesh.

That's scary you can tell by your reaction what you've been exposed to. *Yikes!* Has anybody ever mentioned if any of that could have causee neurological damage and any of your Migraine or HC issues??

My farming family was pretty lucky I guess. They were up in Minnesota and not a lot of pesticides etc were used there - not in his fields anyway. It got to be a popular teenaged job to ride the tractor and spot shoot weeds with herbicide. It sounded like a great job at the time, but now I shudder at that too. Kids and pesticide, what a combination!

I wonder what we'll be thinking of in 10 or 15 years and saying "Sheesh - how crazy" to??!
Comment by Winnyninnypoopoo on December 5, 2010 at 6:49pm
Think the migraines are inherited and the HC came on after having anaphylaxis under anesthesia - came out of the anesthesia with it.

I do think it might be some of the underlying problem with autoimmune and allergy issues!
Comment by Ellen S on December 7, 2010 at 12:18pm
Just curious, do you keep an 02 sat machine around to check your daily saturation levels? Even when my thyroid was totally off-kilter (pulse 28, BP in the range of a dead person) my sats were still good. It was one way to at least rule out one trigger for the chronic Migraines though. I understand there might be damage from prolonged hypoxia that might be at the root then, right??

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