1980 – 1992: Mungindi NSW. Multiple pesticides + Parathion Methyl

All my life, the casual and careless use of poisons has worried me. With the commencement of aerial spraying in this area I became very worried, as the chemical seemed to go everywhere but where it was intended. In about 1980 my neighbour sprayed for weeds and the spray ended on my property. When I explained the problem he just laughed and said I must have got it all, because it didn’t kill the weeds on his place.

In 1983, the spray on the property across the river killed cattle and literally thousands of birds, all species. The wild green budgies which were here in the thousands were completely wiped out.

Later that year, I discovered that my neighbour was going to grow cotton within 100 yards of my verandah. I was terribly worried because I knew he had nowehere to store his tailwater, he was so close to my home and I remembered the weed spraying incident about 1980. I rang all the government departments explaining my concerns about pesticide drift. I explained to Water Resources that the chemically polluted water would come back into the river and pollute my water supply. I got nowhere. They told me not to be a complaining old woman and when the irrigator’s licence was granted, they did not even come near my place to see the impact it might have on me.

The cotton crop went ahead, with the tailwaters pouring directly into the river, which was my house supply. The aerial spraying was carried out in all wind conditions and just to add to my worries, the plane used to come straight at the house and pull out at the last minute. In February 1985, they sprayed before I could get the windows closed and I was savagely exposed to pesticides. It was early in the morning, but light enough to see, with a strong wind blowing directly at my house. There was no number on the plane, but I complained to the authorities just the same.

A month later the same thing happened again; early in the morning, my neighbour sprayed in a strong wind, and my house was full of chemicals again. I called the police and they followed the plane to the airport and confirmed that the plane had no number. The pesticide being used was the highly toxic methyl parathion. The police did make a report but there was no follow-up.

Problems with drift and water pollution continued, my health began to deteriorate badly and our Angora goats were suffering a lot of stress from the noise and chemicals. Four of the kids were born large and well-informed but dead. I sent tests away to Queensland University and they could find nothing amiss. They indicated that it could be chemical poisoning but that it was impossible to prove. We also had seven donkeys and five of them just died. An autopsy showed that it was a toxin that killed them but I was never informed exactly what it was. Four of our five horses just up and died together at the one time all with indications of poisoning.

In a few years the industry has just denuded this fertile area of trees, the river is dying, the water and bird life is diminishing at such a rate you can almost hear it happening. They are wiping out colonies of koalas without a second thought. The bees are nearly non-existent.

I have lived in this small town, about a thousand population, for 24 years. In early days there were a few cancer cases, a little asthma, viruses occasionally, stomach problems were rarely heard of and skin disorders not many. There was a bit of hay fever for those working around wheat in harvest time and that was how life went along. Then cotton came into the area with all the tonnes of chemicals. They get into the water, the air and on the people. Now we have a different situation. There have been 28 cases of cancer that I know of, also stillbirths, miscarriages and minor deformities. Asthma is rife and it is quite common for small children to have respiratory problems. Then there are the viruses that sweep town, but instead of recovering completely, people keep having relapses. Stomach complaints and skin disorders are commonplace now. What has caused this dramatic change in our community? It’s the extensive use of chemicals and it’s happening in other towns as well yet the authorities won’t consider the evidence. Pat Jackson Mungindi, NSW. p109/110 Quick Poison Slow Poison. Pesticide Risk in the Lucky Country. Kate Short 1994