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The Killing Fields of Walnut Ridge Arkansas

Walnut Ridge Arkansas has a population of close to 5000 residents and is located in the northeast quarter of Arkansas. Approximately half of an hour drive West of Jonesboro, an hour and a half drive north west of Memphis, Tennessee and a two hour drive north of the state capitol in Little Rock. Walnut Ridge is not only the largest city in Lawrence County but also the county seat. Local citizens can take pride in our town’s strong rural character. Walnut Ridge has always maintained a large agricultural industry . Rice, soybeans, wheat and corn are the major crops grown in this area. Residents can enjoy the rural charm of a farming community with its winding roads and fields farmed for generations.


Little to the citizens and residences of Walnut Ridge know, that The lobbiest for the American Farm Beureau have created exemptions for large farms to all EPA laws, rules, and regulations, thus creating the killing fields of Walnut Ridge Arkansas. Here are just a few EPA exemptions for agrucultue. The term pesticide covers a wide range of compounds including insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, molluscicides, nematicides, plant growth regulators and others. Among these, organochlorine (OC) insecticides, used successfully in controlling a number of diseases, such as malaria and typhus, were banned or restricted after the 1960s in most of the technologically advanced countries. The introduction of other synthetic insecticides – organophosphate (OP) insecticides in the 1960s, carbamates in 1970s and pyrethroids in 1980s and the introduction of herbicides and fungicides in the 1970s–1980s contributed greatly to pest control and agricultural output. Ideally a pesticide must be lethal to the targeted pests, but not to non-target species, including man. Unfortunately, this is not the case, so the controversy of use and abuse of pesticides has surfaced. The rampant use of these chemicals, under the adage, “if little is good, a lot more will be better” has played havoc with human and other life forms. Reference: Impact of pesticides use in agriculture: their benefits and hazards


I investigated the Killing Fields of Walnut Ridge Arkansas for two months and in my opinion the killing fields are caused by Crop Dusting drift of molecules and droplets of pesticides. If you live near a big farm or an otherwise frequently manicured landscape, “pesticide drift”—drifting spray and dust from pesticide applications—could be an issue for you and yours. Indeed, pesticide drift is an insidious threat to human health as well as to wildlife and ecosystems in and around agricultural and even residential areas where harsh chemicals are used to ward off pests. The biggest risk from pesticide drift is to those living, working or attending school near larger farms which employ elevated spraying equipment or crop duster planes to apply chemicals to crops and fields. Children are especially vulnerable to these airborne pesticides, given that their young bodies are still growing and developing. “When pesticides are sprayed they can drift and settle on playgrounds, porches, laundry, toys, pools, furniture and more,” reports the non-profit Pesticide Action Network (PAN). “Some of the most toxic pesticides in use in the U.S. today are also the most drift prone, and yet this common route of exposure remains largely invisible.”

I just happened to be visiting friends in Walnut Ridge during the months of September and October, when i noticed the huge clouds of black and white smoke, cused by burning the rice fields. I make a living teaching EPA Smoke School for EPA Method 9. I have been working in this field since 1984. I am keenly aware that other industries are limited to an average of 20% opacity of smoke over a 6 minute period. I also learned from my customers at Arkansas DEQ, that EPA had granted agricultural exemptions to all rules and regulations to allow the larger farmers to produce smoke opacity of a whopping 100%. I can easily prove that xylene, the active indreedient of pesticides is absorbed into the air conditioner systems of buildings, residences, businesses, and vehicles, and thus allowing the citizens of Walnut Ridge to be exposed to xylene (the active ingreedient of pesticides) for 24/7. One farmer admitted that he had been burning the fields for over 20 years becuase it was less labor intensive than plowing the rice stubble under.

According to OSHA Occupational Health Gudeline for Xylene, The current OSHA standard for xylene is 100 parts of xylene per million parts of air (ppm) averaged over an 8-hour work shift. According to PMC National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health xylene is extremely harmful to your health.


Exposure to xylene can occur via inhalation, ingestion, eye or skin contact. It is primarily metabolized in the liver by oxidation of a methyl group and conjugation with glycine to yield methyl hippuric acid, which is excreted in the urine. Smaller amounts are eliminated unchanged in the exhaled air. There is a low potential for accumulation.[,] Xylene causes health effects from both acute (<14 days) and also chronic (>365 days) exposure. The type and severity of health effects depends on several factors, including the amount of chemical you are exposed to and the length of time you are exposed for. Individuals also react differently to different levels of exposure.[]


The main effect of inhaling xylene vapor is depression of the central nervous system, with symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. The effects listed below can begin to occur with exposure to air levels of about 100 ppm. They are reversible and become more noticeable and serious as the length of time of exposure increases[] [Table 1].

Table 1

Table 1

Effect of xylene on the nervous system

Effect of xylene on the central nervous system is attributed to the liposolubility of xylene in the neuronal membrane. It has been suggested that xylene disturbs the action of proteins essential to normal neuronal function either by disruption of the lipid environment in which the membrane proteins function or by direct interaction with the proteins in the membranes.[] It has been suggested that a metabolic intermediate like methyl benzaldehyde could be responsible for the toxicity of xylene. Oxidation of xylene to these intermediates by microsomal enzyme systems may occur in the brain.[] Changes in the levels of various neurotransmitters and lipid composition have been observed in several brain areas following acute- and intermediate-duration exposure to xylene. It is unclear whether these represent direct effects of xylene or are secondary changes resulting from nonspecific central nervous system depression.[,]

Long-term exposure may lead to headaches, irritability, depression, insomnia, agitation, extreme tiredness, tremors, impaired concentration and short-term memory. This condition is sometimes generally referred to as “organic solvent syndrome.” Unfortunately, there is very little information available that isolates xylene from other solvent exposures in the examination of these effects.[]


Irritation of the nose and throat can occur at approximately 200 ppm after 3–5 min. Accidental splash in the eye may damage the surface of the eye, which will heal within a few days.[]


Exposure to xylene at levels of 200 ppm or greater can irritate the lungs, causing chest pain and shortness of breath. Extreme overexposure (e.g., in a confined space) can result in pulmonary edema, a potentially life-threatening condition in which the lungs fill with fluid. However, there is no evidence that repeated, low-level exposure has any long-term effects on the lung.[]


At very high levels of exposure, xylene can injure the liver and kidneys, but this is extremely unlikely to happen without noticeable effects on the nervous system. Generally, such damage is reversible.[] Low-level occupational exposure does not affect the liver and the kidneys.[]


There is no evidence that exposure to xylene affects the blood cells in humans. Earlier reports of low red blood cell counts (anemia) may have been due to contamination of xylene with benzene.[]


Symptoms of nausea, vomiting and gastric discomfort were observed in workers exposed to xylene vapors (unspecified concentration), which were reversible.[]


Workers exposed to xylenes (TWA 14 ppm) reported reduced grasping power and reduced muscle power in the extremities more frequently than the unexposed controls. This is due to the neurological effect rather than a direct effect on the muscles.[]


Xylene, like other organic solvents, can dissolve the skin’s natural protective oils. Frequent or prolonged skin contact can cause irritation and dermatitis, dryness, flaking and cracking of the skin. Damaged skin may allow greater absorption of chemicals.[,] Xylene easily penetrates most ordinary clothing and can become trapped in ordinary gloves and boots. Xylene trapped in the clothing can cause burns and blistering.[]