BAYSWATER city council will provide residents with a fact-sheet explaining its use of the herbicide glyphosate.
Cr Chris Cornish pushed for the decision and was delighted to win the support of his colleagues. He’s now keen to see “cafe strips, schools, playgrounds and around water drains” become glyphosate-free areas.
Glyphosate herbicides (Round-up is a popular brand) are sprayed worldwide to kill weeds, in varying concentrations.
In March the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer sparked panic when it declared glyphosate was ”probably carcinogenic”. Manufacturers, distributors and civic authorities are adamant the product is safe if used as directed.
Cr Cornish accepts no-one can say with certainty if the chemical causes cancer in humans, but he wants residents fully briefed on its use, so they can make informed decisions.
“I am concerned that when an area has been sprayed, subsequent human contact would be dangerous to the person’s long-term health,” he says.
“It can take up to two weeks for the sprayed plants to turn brown and hence people have no idea whether they are in an area which has recently been sprayed.
“I personally think café strips, schools, playgrounds and around water drains should be glyphosate-free areas, but this motion is simply designed to be transparent and accountable in when and where we use glyphosate-based products and to lead to guidelines which minimise its use and alerts the public when it is in use.”
Mayor Sylvan Albert says the city has seven highly trained and experienced staff, with WA health department licences, who regularly use glyphosate.
“Any spraying around café strips is carried out early in the morning prior to any businesses opening and no spraying is carried out if pedestrians are visible,” he says.
“Kerbs and paths around schools are sprayed during school holidays or when no children are in sight. Signage is always erected when glyphosate is being applied.
“Spraying around drains is not conducted if rain is imminent and is mainly carried out during the dry months of the year, through the months of September to April, with the occasional spot spraying during the colder months.”
Glyphosate has been linked to tumours in mice and rats — and there is also what the IARC classifies as “mechanistic evidence”, such as DNA damage to human cells from exposure.
Several European countries, including Holland, Denmark and Sweden, have banned or restricted the use of glyphosate herbicides by local authorities because of alleged links with a variety of health problems — not just cancer — ranging from birth defects and kidney failure to celiac disease, colitis and autism.
Defenders of glyphosate say it is biologically degraded over time by soil microorganisms into materials that are naturally occurring, including carbon dioxide and phosphate.
But in 2013, Friends of the Earth Europe commissioned an independent laboratory in Germany to test urine samples from people in 18 countries for glyphosate. The results showed traces of the chemical in 44 per cent of samples on average.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK