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Past Issues

Whatcom Watch Online

July 2006

Dear Watchers


Research: Roundup® Extremely Lethal to Amphibians

Dear Watchers:

This spring, just as the frogs were beginning their spectacular annual spring chorus, some disturbing news came to my attention. A University of Pittsburgh scientist has published a study that finds the herbicide Roundup to be “extremely lethal” to amphibians. In a paper titled, “The Impact of Insecticides and Herbicides on the Biodiversity and Productivity of Aquatic Communities,” published in the journal Ecological Applications, Dr. Rick Relyea examined how a pond’s entire community—25 species, including crustaceans, insects, snails and tadpoles—responded to the addition of the manufacturers’ recommended doses of commonly used insecticides and herbicides. Relyea found that Roundup® (Monsanto brand name for glyphosate) caused a 70 percent decline in amphibian biodiversity and an 86 percent decline in the total mass of tadpoles.

“The most shocking insight coming out of this was that Roundup, something designed to kill plants, was extremely lethal to amphibians,” said Relyea, who conducted the research at the University of Pittsburgh’s Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology. Biologists are saying that Dr. Relyea’s experiment is one of the most extensive studies to date on the effects of commonly used insecticides and herbicides on non-target organisms and may provide a key link to explaining global amphibian declines. (In our own Whatcom County, two frog species are now listed by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife as “Species of Concern.”)

Roundup is the most widely used herbicide in the world, and its manufacturer, Monsanto, was quick to attack Relyea’s research. (For Dr. Relyea’s point-by-point response to Monsanto see Besides breeding in ponds, frogs also favor shallow temporary spring wetlands found in fields and forests in which to lay their eggs, where tadpoles may be safer from common predators like fish. This can make them even more vulnerable to herbicide spraying. The recent introduction of genetically engineered Roundup resistant plants by Monsanto is predicted to increase the quantity of Roundup applied by farmers threefold.

Meredith Moench
Lummi Island

City Action Offers Glimmer of Hope

Dear Watchers:

Thank you for continuing to keep us updated on the status of Lake Whatcom monitoring—as depressing as the story appears to be. April Markiewicz’ articles are very informative and most appreciated.

Coincidentally, in this past issue, along with April’s latest article, was a little-noticed entry under the Bellingham City Council voting chart. Item 111 on page 12 authorized the city to temporarily transfer a little over $3 million from the wastewater fund to purchase 132.2 acres in the watershed.

The property purchased happened to be the subject of another Whatcom Watch article from 2003 (“Scarce Groundwater in the Lake Whatcom Watershed,” June 2003), and its purchase is quite significant in that its owner had development rights for over 100 homes, and had spent nearly 20 years developing a water system for the area. This action by the city has thus thwarted the provision of water to a large area of North Shore Road that is yet to be developed, thereby squelching future development activity there.

While the situation with regard to Lake Whatcom appears in some ways to be hopelessly lost, actions such as the purchase of this area by the city give us at least a glimmer of hope.

Tom Pratum

National Research Council Member Speaks Out Against Water Fluoridation

Dear Watchers:

Thank you for your interesting and well-documented series on the history of water fluoridation in the U.S. We seldom know the details of how certain procedures and treatments become sacred cows in the health industry and assume they are adopted due to unbiased scientific inquiry. So a historical look like this is very enlightening. In spite of having read a great deal on the subject already, I learned quite a few new details from the series.

It seems a logical next step might be to print an opinion piece, such as the one by National Research Council panel member, Dr. Hardy Limeback, Canadian dental researcher, on the National Research Council’s finding from their three-year review of studies from 1990 to the present. He is one of three panel members speaking out in favor of ending water fluoridation.


‘A democratic vote should not be used to determine one’s medications, that should always be an individual’s choice.’

Shirley Jacobson
U.S.P.H.S. Nurse Corps, retired

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