By Michael Howell
Local wildlife rehabilitator Judy Hoy is hoping the fourth time is the charm in her decades-long attempt to get the Ravalli County Board of Health to request the Environmental Protection Agency to test the foliage, snow and rain, surface water and urine of domestic grazing animals in the county to determine what gene disrupting, mineral disrupting, hormone disrupting toxins are present.
Hoy first asked the Board of Health to consider the issue and request some testing back in 1997. At that time she presented photos and specimens of the birth defects that began to be observed by Ravalli County citizens on multiple mammal species in spring of 1995. Biologists at the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks were critical of Hoy’s findings and denied that her concerns were valid.
In response, Hoy formed a Ravalli County Study Group composed of veterinarians, wildlife biologists, medical doctors and concerned citizens. Their report, produced in April 2001, provided further evidence that there was an alarmingly high prevalence of the reported birth defects on multiple vertebrate species in the valley. The Study Group asked that the county support a request to the EPA for testing of potential environmental causes for the malformations. This report also drew criticism and denials from FWP officials.
The last time the BOH addressed this issue was in 2006. At that time BOH member Patti Eldredge, who is a wildlife biologist, spent many hours investigating the research, many photos and statements by independent biologists, researchers and veterinarians versus statements by biologists who worked for government agencies.
Eldredge found that FWP officials had not changed their opinion about Hoy’s concerns. But in her report, she states, “So far, I am not convinced that FWP has done a reasonable job of checking out Judy’s claims. It’s clear that they do not want to research this issue any further in Ravalli County, and a great deal of their emails was spent explaining why they shouldn’t, couldn’t, and wouldn’t, even though I hadn’t suggested otherwise at that point in our dialogue.”
Eldredge was also critical, however, of the study group’s report that was published in an online journal that she found to be short on credibility.
Nonetheless, Eldredge concluded, “So, where does all this lead? I think there probably are negative effects on wildlife and humans resulting from all the chemicals we have introduced into the biosphere in the last 60 years. It’s a huge, unplanned, uncontrolled experiment that is affecting some individuals more than others. As in most biological situations, a staggering number of factors are involved. What seems clear is that some man-made chemicals are endocrine disruptors, and that many are widely present in the environment, even in areas distant from where they were applied.”
She made six recommendations for action to the Board of Health:
1) Encourage the County Weed Board, locals schools, and the Bitterroot National Forest to minimize use of herbicides and insecticides.
2) Try to learn which, if any, of the herbicides used on County roads are known or suspected to be endocrine disruptors.
3) Request that the Montana Dept. of Agriculture store pesticide-use records in a way that makes them available for epidemiological studies. [In light of proposed changes to Montana State law governing public health to include more ability to investigate environmental threats to public health, this might be a good time to request such changes.] (HB 92 in current MT legislature)
4) Public education about safe use and disposal of lawn and garden chemicals.
5) Encourage the EPA to complete the assay protocols for endocrine disruption in suspected and new chemicals.
6) Request that FWP do a credible study of Ravalli County White-Tailed Deer.
7) Realize that endocrine disruptors are a national and international problem and that we probably aren’t able to do much about it.
The Board of Health did not take any action with regard to these recommendations.
Now, armed with emerging evidence of the harmful effects of glyphosates (a major ingredient in Roundup) and a recent study published in 2015 that demonstrates a high degree of correlation between increased herbicide and pesticide use and increases in various birth defects among humans, Hoy is coming back to the Board of Health for another hearing. She believes she has credible answers for all the criticisms so far leveled against her and would like the Board of Health to reconsider the issue.
“All I’m asking them to do is to request some testing from the EPA,” said Hoy, although she said she wouldn’t mind at all if they implemented all of Eldredge’s recommendations which were made in her 2006 report to the Board.
The Board of Health has put Hoy’s concerns on the agenda for their next meeting scheduled for December 9 at 3 p.m.