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Canadian Forces Base Gagetown Fact-Finding Project reports re: herbicide spraying, 1952–2004

CFB Gagetown is a large military training base in New Brunswick. Training grounds have been kept clear of foliage by the use of herbicides since 1956.

As well, during the Cold War (1966 and 1967), the United States tested herbicides in small strips of northern forest on the base. Herbicide trials included Agent Orange and other “Rainbow Herbicides“ that became infamous during the Vietnam War.

Members of the military and their families have been affected by these herbicides and associated contaminants such as dioxins, hexachlorobenzene and other persistent toxic chemicals.

It became apparent that military personnel were suffering disproportionately high incidence of cancers and other health effects that have been associated with these chemicals. U.S. military personnel who were exposed to Agent Orange and related chemicals receive compensation. The Canadian government launched a “Fact-Finding” project to examine herbicide use, contamination and disease patterns associated with CFB Gagetown. Prevent Cancer Now is providing reports from this project as a public service, because to our knowledge they are no longer otherwise available online.

Numerous projects and stages of investigation are outlined below, with links to the files in our archives. These documents were downloaded from the Fact-Finder website during and immediately following the conclusion of the project.

(We regret that some reports have not yet been identified among our files. We will update this page should they be recovered. Please email us if you would like to be notified of additions, or to share any updated or missing documentation.)

The final Fact-Finders’ report was published in 2007.
Task 1: WHO and WHAT?

The first Fact-Finders stage was to identify personnel who had been on the base since 1952, and the history and science of the herbicides that had been used.

Task 2: What was sprayed where, and when?

Consultants Jacques-Whitford compiled a chronological inventory of herbicides sprayed at CFB Gagetown. They then devised a Strategic approach to environmental sampling and a Field program, including a map, and an amended table 2-1.

The field sampling report (summary here) was peer reviewed and the sampling locations table amended in 2006. Amendments were also made to:
Table 5-2
Table 9-1

Task 3: Toxicological risk assessments related to exposures to herbicides and contaminants

Task 3A: Herbicide spraying operations – 1996-1967 U.S. trials – manufacturing impurities (contaminants)

CANTOX Environmental compiled a Tier 1 (high level) report including details of quantities and types of herbicides sprayed, and quantities and areas of application. Detailed calculations of body burdens and potential health risks are presented. Notably, these are based on highly uncertain data.

Appendices to Task 3A spraying operations report:

A. Dioxin and hexachlorobenzene contaminant levels potentially in herbicides used during the 1966/67 U.S. herbicide trials

B. Toxicological profiles of dioxins and furans, and hexachlorobenzene. Toxicological profiles of herbicides and quantities used over time are as follows:

  1. Bromacil
  2. Pentachlorophenol
  3. Dinoseb
  4. Cacodylic Acid
  5. Picloram
  6. Dicamba
  7. Fenoprop
  8. Fosamine Ammonium
  9. Triclopyr
  10. Glyphosate [Note: very outdated, given extensive recent findings of cancers and other harms.]
  11. Diuron
  12. Trichloroacetic Acid
  13. 2,3,6-Trichlorobenzoic Acid
  14. Hexachloroacetone
  15. Paraquat
  16. Diquat
  17. Tebuthiuoron
  18. Dichlorprop
  19. Ammonium Sulfamate
  20. Dalapon
  21. Mecoprop
  22. Diesel Fuel
  23. 2,4-Dichlorophenoxy Acetic Acid (2,4-D)
  24. 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxy Acetic Acid (2,4,5-T)
  25. Imazapyr

C. Estimates of Canadians’ daily intake of dioxins and furans, and hexachlorobenzene
D. Background information on the pesticide handlers exposure database

G. Jacques-Whitford examined theoretical potential migration of herbicides and contaminants, (Scoping review, Addendum 1 and Addendum 2), and prepared a series of maps and figures:
1. Herbicide migration Potential Receptor Locations
2. Surface water drainage
3. Potential migration to ground water
4. Areas with potentially significant migration
5. Areas of potential concern sample locations

H. Peer review

Task 3A-2: Human health risk assessment for current exposures to herbicides and herbicide-related chemicals

Dillon Consulting examined present day (2006) human health risks.


A. Summary of ESA Data
B. Selection of Chemical Screening Criteria
C. missing from our collection – Statistical Analysis Results
D. Selection of Receptor Parameters
E. Detailed Exposure Calculations
F. Modelling Chemical Residues in Wild Game
G. missing from our collection – Toxicological Profile for PCDD/PCDF
H. Peer review

Task 3B: Epidemiological study of residents of a region comprising CFB Gagetown and surrounding areas

Dr. Judith Guernsey, Associate Professor, Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Dalhousie University carried out a literature review, and examined the epidemiology of chronic disease and cancers in the CFB region, compared with New Brunswick overall. (NOTE: there are many concerns with this study, by design and as a result of lack of information. A major flaw was double-counting the Gagetown area with inclusion of CFB region residents in both groups; while not following the most-exposed military personnel.)

Expert Epidemiologist Peer Reviews
Dr. D. Wigle
Dr. D. Savitz
Dr. Guernsey’s response to peer reviews

Summary report on Task 3 by Intrinsik (formerly Cantox)

Task 4: Dioxins in fish, eels and mussels

A repeated criticism of the Fact-Finders’ work was that persistent organic pollutants such as dioxins, that are fat soluble, were measured where they were unlikely to be easily detected, but were not measured in wildlife where they collect in fatty tissue. A final task was added to the project, to analyse dioxins in fish, eels and mussels upstream and downstream of CFB Gagetown.

Data Report on Dioxin Analytical Data for Fish and Freshwater Mussels from CFB Gagetown, N.B.

The report concluded that there was no significant difference between dioxin content in fish, eels and mussels upstream and downstream of CFB Gagetown. This study design and analyses were designed to hide the contamination. Dioxins accumulate in fatty tissue, so dioxin levels are typically “lipid normalized.” In this study, some (but not all) fish and eels were skinned. This removed the fatty layer under the skin, reduced the dioxin load in individual samples, and increased the randomness of absolute dioxin levels. Fortunately the authors included lipid data in an appendix, and when the data is “lipid normalized” as is standard practice, it is clear that dioxins are higher in freshwater species downstream of CFB Gagetown.

Supplemented Table prepared by M.E. Sears, using data presented in Summary of Full Task 4 report, prepared by G.A Packman & Associates, Environmental Consultants, originally available at:

Sampling LocationSpecies (n=10 for each)Avg. 2005 PCDD/F TEQ (pg/g ww)Range (pg/g ww)Lipid (%)Avg. Weight (g)Av. TEQ / lipid (pg/g lipid)
Brizley Stream   American Eel0.2130.107 – 0.27610.61132.01
 White Sucker0.230.218 – 0.272110423
Nerepis RiverAmerican Eel0.1640.038 – 0.37615.3901.07
 Brook Trout0.1430.132 – 0.1912.31406.22
 Eastern Pearlshell0.0980.058 – 0.1840.7 14
Swan Creek LakeAmerican Eel1.7030.222 – 6.1985.841829.4
 Chain Pickerel0.1540.074 – 0.3040.482438.5
 Eastern Elliptio0.3860.203 – 0.6411 38.6

A standard practice is to report TEQs normalized according to the lipid content of the material.  This is reported in the left hand column, and demonstrates that the Swan Creek Lake, downstream of CFB Gagetown, is much more contaminated than the other two locations.


  • Hexachlorobenzene, and many dioxins of interest (e.g. 2,7-DCDD) were not analysed in this study. 
  • If the fish had not been skinned the results would have been much higher, because dioxins would have been concentrated in the fatty layer under the skin.