The Poison Papers: How an Activist Joined Forces with Investigative Journalists to Document the Hidden History of Herbicide Hazards

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CHE-Alaska Teleconference: Wednesday, April 25

9:00 am – 10:00 am Alaska Time

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About the Call:

Carol Van Strum has spent the past 40 years involved in various lawsuits against the federal government and chemical manufacturers. She wasn’t always an activist. Soon after moving to a small community in Oregon’s Coast Range in the 1970s,  Van Strum’s family was sprayed by a helicopter with 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D – the components of Agent Orange – that was meant to treat timber on nearby public land. When she and other members of her community met with the Forest Service to voice concerns over human illness and deformities among animals, they were largely ignored.  Van Strum’s book, A Bitter Fog: Herbicides and Human Rights (1983; 2014) pits the experiences of people exposed to forest spraying against the fraudulent studies underlying EPA pesticide regulation, which ultimately convinced federal courts to ban pesticide use on national forests. Over the decades, as she assisted other communities and environmental groups on similar cases, Van Strum amassed over three tons of documents about the chemical industry through lawsuits and Freedom of Information Act requests.

Join this call to hear how Van Strum’s steadfast activism and extraordinary collection of documents inspired the creation of a searchable online archive known as “The Poison Papers” detailing fraud in laboratory testing, efforts to conceal chemical research, and the influence of chemical manufacturers on regulators at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Find out how the project serves as a powerful tool for researchers and attorneys across the country investigating corporations that are harming public health and the environment. 


Carol van Strum is a writer, editor, farmer, parent, and chronic thorn in the side of those who endanger the health and safety of people and the environment. She lives and works in the Oregon Coast Range and is part of an ongoing effort to achieve a ban on aerial spraying in Lincoln County. In 2018, Carol received the international David Brower Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition for her outstanding environmental and social justice work.

Eric Francis Coppolino is the executive director of Chiron Return, Inc., the small nonprofit organization coordinating The Gemstone File, a collection of documents formerly referred to as the “Poison Papers.” As an investigative reporter, Eric has specialized in corporate fraud and toxic torts litigation involving some of the world’s most powerful corporations.

Peter von Stackelberg is an Award-winning Canadian investigative journalist, writer, and publisher. Over a career of more than 40 years, Peter has written thousands of news stories, briefs, and reports on environmental issues, technological change, issues shaping the future of global society, and a multitude of other topics. In early 2016 Peter began scanning and digitizing more than 6,000 documents for the Gemstone File, a project which took 18 months.




Oregon Rights of Nature Advocate Receives International Environmental Lifetime Achievement Award (News release 02/28/2018)

The Poison Papers website

100,000 Pages of Chemical Industry Secrets Gathered Dust in an Oregon Barn for Decades – Until Now (The Intercept, July 2017)

How an Oregon Activist’s Barn Produced The “Poison Papers” (Oregon Public Broadcasting August 2017)

Fighting for Life in the Siuslaw National Forest (The Corvallis Advocate, September 20, 2017)

Carol van Strum and Susan Parker: Just Stories