“Cancer-causing toxins used to strip the jungles of Vietnam were also employed to clear massive plots of Crown land in Northern Ontario, government documents obtained by the Toronto Star reveal.
Records from the 1950s, 60s and 70s show forestry workers, often students and junior rangers, spent weeks at a time as human markers holding red, helium-filled balloons on fishing lines while low-flying planes sprayed toxic herbicides including an infamous chemical mixture known as Agent Orange on the brush and the boys below.
“We were saturated in chemicals,” said Don Romanowich, 63, a former supervisor of an aerial spraying program in Kapuskasing, Ont., who was recently diagnosed with a slow-growing cancer that can be caused by herbicide exposure. “We were told not to drink the stuff but we had no idea.”
A Star investigation examined hundreds of boxes of forestry documents and found the provincial government began experimenting with a powerful hormone-based chemical called 2,4,5-T — the dioxin-laced component of Agent Orange — in Hearst, Ont., in 1957.
The documents, filed at the Archives of Ontario, describe how WWII-era Stearman biplanes were kitted with 140-gallon tanks containing the chemicals, which were usually diluted in a mix of fuel oil and water.
Less than 10 years later, the Department of Lands and Forests (now the Ministry of Natural Resources) authorized the use of a more potent mixture of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T for aerial spraying. The combination of those two herbicides in equal parts comprised Agent Orange — the most widely used chemical in the Vietnam War….”