MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS
MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924
Cyclists Get More Than They Bargain For
On February 20, professional cyclists raced through West Marin on the first leg of the Amgen Tour of California. As they traveled the rural roads, their lungs straining for oxygen might have also been taking in the airborne residues of herbicides like 2,4-D, which are sprayed over ranches from helicopters during February and March.
The running of the Tour coincided with thistle-spraying season on the ranches of Marin County. Since there is no official notification of spray dates, even though spray permits are required by the County, and since the spraying depends on weather conditions day-to-day, the cyclists and spectators would have had no advance notice.
One of the pesticides used is Transline, which is highly persistent in the environment, and is known to be volatile even after it has settled on the target plants. Given the right conditions, Transline residue may evaporate and enter the breezes that blow across the hillsides through which the athletes were racing.
The other herbicide sprayed from the helicopters include 2,4-D, a component of the infamous Agent Orange defoliant once used in the war in Vietnam. 2,4-D is being used in the war on weeds, with unknown collateral damage to people and animals. Despite cases of spray poisoning in other agricultural counties, apparently there is no doubt in the mind of the Marin County Agricultural Commissioner, Stacy Carlsen, that the spraying is safe and non-ranchers should not ask questions about agribusiness-as-usual. Breast and prostate cancer survivors in the county prefer to err on the side of the precautionary principle, especially in a part of the county that is perceived as being healthy and sustainable in its agricultural practices.
There is a forthcoming State Senate Bill (SB509) that would require public notification of aerial spraying, but until it passes, everyone but the sprayers will continue to be in the dark.
A bicyclist gears up for the ride through West Marin. Photo: Rella Zoush
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