Time to speak up about chemical use


To the Editor:

I took more than a passing interest in the “Greening Martha” appearing in the Sept. 14 edition of the Martha’s Vineyard Times. I found it incredible that here we are in the tech world of 2017, and we are still allowing poison to be introduced to our drinking water and into the food chain in general. Have we learned nothing from past incidents such as Love Canal in New York and other toxic waste sites, where people have developed all manner of debilitating diseases, some fatal, from ingesting poison in the environment?

I believe the majority of your readers are at least somewhat familiar with Agent Orange and health problems that arose due to its widespread use in Vietnam. Even today, nearly 50 years later, the Veterans Administration is either still treating veterans for the effects of exposure to Agent Orange or making sizable disability payments, or both, to veterans whose conditions cannot be cured but whose lives have been severely limited, and probably shortened, by exposure to this poison. I am a vet, I was there, and I paid the price for exposure to this poison.

The article states that glyphosate, which is one of the chemicals Eversource intends to spray on the Island, is identical to Agent Orange except for one carbon being exchanged for nitrogen — whoopee! I guess that changes everything, right? And here they are relying on studies done by the chemical companies themselves to convince us that they are perfectly safe for humans: that there is no proof that the application of this poison to the Island environment will be harmful. Gee, that sounds familiar. Is that not what the tobacco companies said about cigarettes before they were proven wrong (or lying), even as thousands of smokers were contracting lung cancer, emphysema, and who knows what as a result of smoking. So this time around, do we have to wait, once again, until people fall ill from drinking the water to prove that the chemical companies are wrong?

Shouldn’t it be that the chemical companies have a responsibility to prove their products are safe? I don’t believe they have done that.

Another issue I would address is the fact that just because the Massachusetts Pesticide Board voted not to take action on a one-year moratorium on Eversource spraying, we have to go along with the program and allow it to happen here. If there is an appeal filed, as stated in the Times article, shouldn’t spraying be halted, at least until a decision on that appeal is reached? Isn’t a matter of public health important enough to justify this? It seems as though Lucy Morrison, assistant to the executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, is right: “The appeal process is failing everybody.” Everybody, that is, except Eversource and the chemical companies.

If this letter is not enough to encourage the people of this Island to pay closer attention to what is going on under their noses, then I would suggest that they read (or reread) the letter appearing in the article written by Mr. Turner, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, to Mr. John Lebeaux, chairman of the Massachusetts Pesticide Board. Mr. Turner refers to some very credible sources describing the chemicals used and their possible effects on the environment. If that doesn’t wake people up, I don’t know what will.

Eversource can cut back the offending vegetation to protect their equipment; they don’t need to poison it. They are just trying to save some money at our expense. Don’t stand for it.

Edmund D. Mossey
West Tisbury



  1. Writer doesn’t understand chemistry and doesn’t understand parts per million or billion. You can die from drinking too much water but it isn’t poisonous. Yes when one carbon is changed to nitrogen it does change everything.

    • I am curious. Why do you favor applying chemicals that do not occur naturally over manual labor, the effect of which at worst is foliage hits the ground a few seasons early?

  2. Thanks to Mr. Mossey for that excellent summary. I too chewed on some agent orange (unaware) as an infantryman in Vietnam. Wake up, People – bring the poisoners to heel, and issue chainsaws to clear the power lines.

  3. Monsanto did not invent Agent Orange. Monsanto gave the govt two herbicides that the military mixed together and called AO. Glysophate is not Agent Orange. Can anyone do a bit of research and not be hysterical. Are we saying that everything we use should occur naturally. No chemicals at all. The FDA and EPA have high standards. Cigarettes were marked dangerous in the 60’s — no parallel here. Love Canal was a toxic waste dump. Can we try apples to apples. Herbicides and pesticides have lifted millions out of poverty due to agricultural productivity and applied properly are very safe.

    • You trust a manufacturer whose profitability depends on good press. How nice.

      I stated in another thread my father worked for a leading developer and producer of pesticides and herbicides. To phrase it modestly, my family has a passing understanding of chemistry. If a substance can kill one thing, it’s a poison. Why do you want to apply a poison above the water table when manual labor can clear the foliage?

      • Newenglander if a dog eats chocolate it can die because the theobromine in chocolate is metabolized in humans but not in dogs. Stop making sweeping statements you don’t understand.

        • The processed chocolate humans eat has small enough amounts of theobromine to be safe but the elderly can still have problems. Stop making sweeping statements you don’t understand.

    • Monsanto originally had glyphosate labelled started as a water softener; it could break down calcium and magnesium compounds, allowing detergents to suds better. That’s for cleaning, not drinking.

      That glyphosate was shelves means other chemicals did the job better; glyphosate either was weak or broke down other unnamed compounds. That Monsanto chose to try it as a herbicide supports that the stuff broke down other compounds.

      Glyphosate was not good enough to clean but they could sell it as a killing agent. It belongs back on the shelf, not in use for anything.

  4. Imagine how we could extend the shelf life of bottled water if we put just a small drop of Cuprinol in each gallon.

    • Whether one wants to inject color and vibrancy into their bottled water or keep a more traditional look, Cuprinol is how to waterproof water.

      Funny except part of R&D’s job is to discover new chemicals but not a practical use. Years down the road, middle management gets the pressure to improve sagging profits and they in turn tell R&D find some way to make a profit off one of the poisons locked out in the storage shed.

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