Calls for council to halt use of weedkiller linked to cancer

Weedkillers including glyphosate, which has been linked to causing cancer in humans, continue to be used by Croydon Council, whose contractors even spray the substance around public parks and children’s playgrounds.

Croydon Council continues to use a weedkiller that is linked to causing cancer

Now Friends of the Earth is calling on the council to stop using the controversial weedkiller, which the World Health Organisation has stated is “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in many weedkillers, such as Roundup. Recently, an American court ruled that agricultural giant Monsanto (who manufacture Roundup) was responsible for causing the cancer of groundkeeper Dewayne Johnson, and awarded him millions of dollars in damages.

Monsanto, the manufacturers, claim that glyphosate breaks down in the soil. This claim is disputed but Friends of the Earth say it is hardly reassuring when local authorities, like Croydon, spray the chemical on surfaces including concrete, paving slabs or children’s playground equipment.

“Spraying in our parks can be very unfocused and so there is little control over where the chemical ends up,” said a spokesperson for Croydon’s Friends of the Earth group.

Holland, Denmark and Sweden have already banned or restricted the use of glyphosate herbicides by local authorities. In Britain, the GMB union has called for a ban on the weedkiller and other local authorities (such as Hammersmith and Fulham, Edinburgh, Bristol, and Brighton and Hove) are already looking at alternatives.

The manufacturers of Roundup say it is safe to use

“We think it’s time that Croydon Council took the sensible step of banning the spraying of these toxic weedkillers,” said Peter Underwood, chair of Croydon’s Friends of the Earth.

“Just waiting for the first court cases awarding damages for cancer in Croydon will be too late, we need to act now.

“We would like a ban to be brought in as soon as possible. There is little spraying that takes place over the winter and so as a minimum we think the ban should be in place before spring.

“From February next year, the Council will be taking the landscape management contract back in-house, and this would be a perfect time for the council to ban the spraying of glyphosate weedkillers by its staff.

“The council should be doing its best to provide a clean, safe, green environment that we can enjoy without putting our health and the health of our families at risk. That’s why we are calling on Croydon Council to ban the spraying of weedkillers containing glyphosate in our streets, parks, and playgrounds.”

If you would like to support the Friends of the Earth toxic weedkiller campaign, then sign the petition here.

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3 Responses to Calls for council to halt use of weedkiller linked to cancer

  1. Pingback: Calls for council to halt use of weedkiller linked to cancer — Inside Croydon | L8in

  2. Anthony Mills says:

    I used glyphosate for 30 years, along with a whole range of other chemicals, and am certain that this is misdirected, as an easy target mistakenly believed by the uninformed to be a product of the evil Monsanto empire. Roundup is the domestic product, professionals use glyphosate in a variety of forms from a multitude of other cheaper manufacturers. But there are far worse chemicals being routinely and widely applied in massive quantities which are more hazardous and damaging to people and the environment we share with other organisms, and which deserve attention and action far more than glyphosate – for example residual pre-emergence herbicides.

  3. Lewis White says:

    I agree with Anthony.
    It should not be banned, because there are many situations where the only way of killing deep-rooted pest-plants like bindweed is to apply glyphosate at the correct time of year. I once was faced with a derelict housing association garden in Norwood where the whole of the very large back garden was a raft of bindweed from end to end and side to side, covering a mixture of old fence panels, scrap iron and other waste. The need was to clear the site and re-grass the garden so that the garden could be used and mown by new tenants. I decided to leave the bindweed for another 3 months and then spray it in late summer just after flowering, so that the herbicide was then drawn down into the rstems and roots. The bindweed was killed , the waste then cleared, and the area cultivated and returfed. I was lucky–it all worked, although bindweed will have continued to live under paths and under the boundary fences, and would have needed to be spot treated where it re-emerged, whilst the lawn mowing will have killed off any emerging through the lawn.

    That type of situation is one where only glyphosate will work.

    I think that the problems arise where Glyphosate is used without understanding and justification, such as the mistaken belief that it will keep paving clear of weeds . YES, it will kill weeds that are already there, (after a wait of sdays or vweeks, depending on weather and weed types, but it it is not designed to keep bare areas of soil or paving weed free.

    In the past, up to the 1980’s local authorities and the railways used simazine ( a residual herbicice) to keep bare areas and rail the tracks free of weeds. That led to problems with water supplies being contaminated, leading to a ban or cessation of such uses.

    They also used to use Paraquat to kill shallow-rooted weeds weeds , or amix of paraquat and simazine to give the quick kill plus residual weed free ground.

    The objection to Paraquat, as I recall, was not of problems arising for the soil but the lethal nature of paraquat if consumed. One had to sign the posions register if collecting a 5 litre pack.

    There were plenty of other chemicals used in parks and golf courses which turned out to be very nasty indeed with residual effects on the soil, worms and the food chjain, and maybe some are still used legally.

    Thankfully, in the 1970’s we started to use chopped tree bark as mulch to stop weed growth on shrub beds, instead of simazine . This has the other beefit of reducing need for watering, and improves soil health by adding humus, taken down into the soil by earthworms.

    We have come a very long way, in the landscape world, by using mulches and reducing use of weedkillers and other pesticides. Heat burners can be used to burn off weeds in some settings, but not where fences could be burnt !

    Some councils have banned use of all such products in parks, but there are situtions in landscape projects, particularly areas which have remained derelict, where Glyphosate remains the only way of resolving the problem.

    My own considered view is that Croydon should draw up a list of all places where glyphosate and all other herbicides and pesticides are used withion parks, housing and other landscapes maintained and developed by the council. Each use should be examined in turn by a small team of people who understand the genuine needs, and issues of the sites for weed control. ( by the contractor, by a landscape manager and ecologist)

    A decison then needs to be made about each use, and product.

    My guess is that many uses will be found to be wrong or unnecessary, and could be replaced by physical means of control, or alternative herbicide.

    It needs to be realised that tarmac and paved areas –if heavily used– need no treatment.
    The problem arises where paved areas are not subject to enough footfall to keep weed free naturally. Edges, such as the “back of footway” alongside front graden walls tend to collect silt, and weeds grow in the silt. Eventually, these weeds will bust up the sides of the footways, which means expense of repair, plus the waste tarmac generated by the repair process, whoich has a clear environmental adverse impact, so such impacts need to be considered too.

    I would like to see reduced use of herbicides and pesticides, for the health of the growers, the environment, and of the consumer. Wine, and even difficult vegetables like carrots can be grown organically at little or no extra cost ( but using intelligent agricultural techniques) , so we should all buy them.

    But once in a while, we do need to use chemicals, and I think that Glyphosate is one of them.

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