Barbara H. Peterson
The state of Washington is in a quandary. Reportedly, “A high rate of birth defects has confounded Washington health officials, who have been unable to identify a cause.”
A report released Tuesday by the Washington State Department of Health said that, since 2010, the neighboring counties of Yakima, Benton and Franklin have an unusually high number pregnancies affected by the birth defect anencephaly, which results in a newborns’ brains being severely underdeveloped.
In the U.S., there are approximately one or two expected cases of anencephaly for every 10,000 annual births. However, in the three named Washington counties, with a total population of approximately 515,000, the health department found that there was an abnormally high number of cases reported from January 2010 to January 2013 with approximately eight cases of anencephaly for every 10,000 births.
Anencephaly is a birth defect, almost always fatal, where the neural tubes in the fetus do not close properly. As a result, the forward part the fetus’ brain is not developed and the other part of the brain is exposed to amniotic fluid, causing further damage. Most fetuses that develop the defect are stillborn. Those who survive to birth usually die shortly after being born.
The Yakima River
Interestingly enough, the Yakima river runs through Yakima and Benton counties, and ends at the “Tri-Cities Area” at Bateman Island, in a confluence of the Yakima, Snake, and Columbia rivers at the edge of Benton and Franklin counties. In other words, the same water runs through all three counties. And this water serves as the main irrigation source for the Yakima Valley.
The Yakima River and its tributaries have been heavily altered for the purpose of irrigated agriculture. There are numerous dams and irrigation canals. Irrigation runoff is in places returned to the river through canal drains
The Yakima River provides irrigation for the dry but fertile land in the valley, and irrigated agriculture is the economic base. Agricultural land totals 1,000 square miles (2,600 km2), including irrigated pastures, orchards, grapes, hops, and field crops. A significant portion of Washington apples and cherries are grown in the valley, as well as most (75%) of the United States’s hops. Since the late 20th century, the wine industry has grown rapidly in the area. It is the location of the Yakima Valley AVA, a designated American Viticultural Area.
Monsanto, Glyphosate and Weed Control
Enter the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board (NWCB):
In the late 1960s, the state legislature established the state’s Noxious Weed Control Board, and authorized counties to establish County Weed Boards. Thirty-eight of Washington’s 39 counties have such boards. There are also a handful of Weed Districts that are contiguous with Irrigation Districts.
Yes, the state of Washington is waging a war against what it determines are noxious weeds, and Glyphosate is its main weapon. In fact, it is the only chemical weapon that is allowed near irrigation outtakes.
Page 59: Glyphosate – a 5% solution of Glyphosate with a suitable surfactant provides fairly good control in some areas and is the only chemical option available for use near irrigation water outtakes.
Glyphosate is also the main herbicide recommended for noxious weed eradication. Why? Because the FDA has declared that it is safe. And not only is the state of Washington using it on land and near irrigation outtakes, it is also entering the Yakima River through direct application because a lot of those pesky noxious weeds just love the water.
The following herbicide active ingredients are allowed for use in Washington lakes and rivers under the Noxious Weed NPDES permit: 2,4-D: 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, dimethylamine salt 2,4-D: 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, butoxyethyl ester Fluridone: 1-methyl-3-phenyl-5-[3-(trifluoromethyl)phenyl]-4(1H)-pyridinone Glyphosate: N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine, isopropylamine salt Endothall: Dipotassium salt of 7-oxabicyclo[2.2.1]heptane-2,3-dicarboxylic acid Diquat: Dibromide 1,1′-ethylene-2,2′-bipyridyldiylium dibromide salt Triclopyr TEA ((3,5,6-tricholoro-2-pyridinyl) oxyacetic acid) Imazapyr (2-[4,5-dihydro-4-methyl-4-(1-methylethyl)-5-oxo-1H- imidazol-2-yl]-3pyridinecarboxylic acid) Recommended Analysis Methods for Herbicide Residue Water Samples
Benton County Herbicide Treatments:
2010 – 100% of the plants were treated in the Yakima River by staff from the Benton County Noxious Weed Control Board (BCNWCB). BCNWB started with a 2% solution of glyphosate and a suitable surfactant and later switched to a 5% solution of glyphosate with a suitable surfactant. Treatments were conducted from mid – July to mid-August.
2011 –The BCNWCB treated plants from Benton City to the Columbia River with a 5% solution of glyphosate. This resulted in very little control, estimated at less than 50%. Fewer plants produced flowers than in 2010 however it should be noted that plants do not tend to flower annually anyway.
2012 –The BCNWCB plans to implement control measures behind all irrigation district diversion dams using a 5% solution of glyphosate starting in July when the water level in the river decreases
So, with a directive from the state of Washington to eradicate noxious weeds with Glyphosate being the main herbicide recommended for that eradication both on land and in the water, one would think that the level of Glyphosate in the Yakima waterways would be monitored since this has been several years in the making. Think again.
The following reference refers to Glyphosate as a pesticide, although it is technically an herbicide – Regulatory Status: Glyphosate acid and its salts are moderately toxic compounds in EPA toxicity class II. Labels for products containing these compounds must bear the Signal Word WARNING. Glyphosate is a General Use Pesticide (GUP). This is also the most recent study that I could find:
Pesticide Occurrence and Distribution
An estimated 146 organic pesticides2 were applied to crops in the Yakima River Basin during the 2000 growing season (table 3). Estimates were based on county-level agricultural statistics from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and were verified and corrected in interviews with private crop chemical consultants and agriculture-extension agents in Kittitas, Yakima, and Benton Counties. Data on right-of-way applications were obtained from State and local transportation departments and irrigation districts. Details of the pesticide compilation are provided by Ebbert and Embrey (2002). Seventy-five of the 146 applied pesticides (51 percent) were analyzed for this study, and of these 75 pesticides, 47 were detected (63 percent). Only glyphosate (Roundup®, Rodeo®) was applied in large amounts, but not analyzed in this study.
Anencephaly and Glyphosate
This is the smoking gun. Glyphosate has been linked to the same birth defect that the Washington State Department of Health reported to have found a high incidence of – anencephaly.
Rull et al. provided evidence of an association between maternal exposure to glyphosate herbicides and anencephaly, a type of neural tube defect, as well as with neural tube defects (NTDs) in general [71,72]–consistent with retinoic acid-linked teratogenicity.
Connecting the Dots
Now let’s connect the dots, shall we? Three Washington counties – Yakima, Benton, and Franklin – experienced an unusually high number of birth defects at around the same time as Glyphosate was being used extensively for several years to eradicate noxious weeds on land and in the water. That birth defect is called anencephaly. Could there be a connection?
It appears that Yakima, Benton, and Franklin counties just happen to have three things in common – the Yakima River, a noxious weed eradication program using copious amounts of Glyphosate for years on both land and in the river, and an increase in anencephaly, which Glyphosate just happens to be suspected of causing.
Considering the government’s propensity to ignore any connection between Monsanto’s Glyphosate and health effects, and the fact that the EPA just raised allowable Glyphosate levels, I think we can safely assume that the correlation between increased usage and these brain damaged babies will not be adequately investigated.
©2013 Barbara H. Peterson