Forest Service/Toxic Paint Use?

dwheeler at dwheeler at
Fri Mar 19 20:22:19 EST 1999

The following article ran in The Oregonian on March 18, 1999, p B10


Government Studies find Forest Service workers have an increased risk of
miscarriages, birth defects and disorders

By SCOTT SONNER, The Associated Press

	Current and former employees of the U.S. Forest Service are suing the
agency to stop the use of a tree-marking spray paint they say causes
miscarriages and other ailments.     The lawsuit, filed last week in
Washington, D.C., says the Forest Service has been breaking the law by using
the specialized, all-weather paint without an environmental impact statement
on possible side effects.     "Unfortunately, it has taken a bunch of women
getting together in the field working with the stuff to find out it is bad,"
said Gloria Flora, supervisor of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in
Nevada near Lake Tahoe.     Flora isn't one of the plaintiffs, but she was
concerned enough to see that the paint is no longer used in Humboldt-Toiyabe.
   Almost a year after government scientists linked the paint to higher risks
of miscarriages, birth defects and nervous system disorders, the Forest
Service still hasn't provided all its employees with alternatives.   The
paint has been used widely in national forests during the past 10 years to
mark trees for logging. The chemicals in the paint allow it to be sprayed
outdoors during freezing weather, when other paints might thicken or freeze. 
 In 1993 an estimated 3,000 people, 80 percent of whom were men, worked on
crews using the paint.	      A study by the National Institute of
Occupational Safety and Health found an 82 percent to 177 percent increased
risk of miscarriage among Forest Service foresters who used various brands of
tree-marking paint. The institute also found an increased risk of birth
defects when both parents were Forest Service workers.	 And an April 1998
study by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found measured
exposure to the paint "appeared to be sufficient to produce central nervous
system symptoms reported by the employees despite the fact the exposure
levels were below OSHA's permissible limits."	Workers in Oregon and the
Lake Tahoe Basin said they began complaining to supervisors in the early
1990s of blurry vision, confusion, nausea, fatigue, chronic sinus irritation,
headaches and diarrhea. But the lawsuit gives no figures on the incidence of
these ailments.   Last year a Forest Service worker filed her own lawsuit
against the manufacturer, Niles Chemical Paint Co. of Niles, Mich.	Carla
Tipton of Baker City alleges the company knew the paint contained chemicals
banned by the government, including toluene, a solvent that the state of
California says causes reproductive problems.Tipton has not reported any
paint-related problems herself but said she collected complaints from other
employees.	At Niles Chemical, executive vice president and general
counsel Sherman Drew said Wednesday that he had no knowledge of the new
lawsuit and had no comment. Company officials also have had no comment in the
past.	  Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck said last year that no employee
would be forced to work on crews using the oil-based paint while the agency
moved toward alternatives.	  The agency also persuaded forestry workers
to delay their lawsuit in December by pledging to replace the paint with a
safer water-based paint by May 15.	  Now the agency has indicated the
May 15 target date won't be met, said Andy Stahl, executive director of the
Association of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, a worker
advocacy group based in Eugene. "The Forest Service is backpedaling from the
mediocre commitments they made earlier," he said.  Forest Service spokesman
Joe Walsh disputed Stahl's comments.   "I don't know where he is getting that
from," Walsh said.	 The agency remains on schedule to terminate all use
of the old oil-based paint by May 15, Walsh said.

Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler

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