As calls flood in to the Agent Orange hotline by people worried about their health, I came across a 1970-Press release by MPP Dr. Morton Shulman. Dr. Shulman, one of Canada’s early environmental campaigners, lambasted the provincial government for continuing to spray 2,4,5T up and down Ontario highways. By then, Agent Orange had been partially banned by the federal government, and was widely recognized as dangerous to humans and the natural environment. It also ran off into rivers and lakes, contaminating water supplies. Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation was unmoved by his protests; after all, they said, 2,4,5T was cheap and effective.
A Toronto Star investigation into the widespread use of these herbicides, and their potential contribution to cancers decades later, has refocused attention on the folly of this calculus. I suspect that many of our current practices will look just as cruel and shortsighted a generation hence.