Protect our children's health from pesticides on our streets, parks and playgrounds

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Local Government authorities in Perth regularly spray our urban environment with pesticides, herbicides and other scheduled poisons registered by the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). Glyphosate, the  most commonly used herbicide is sprayed in an attempt to control weeds on hard surfaces like foothpaths, roads, verges and public access ways as well as public parks, gardens and bushland areas.

Recently the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) – International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate a Group 2A Probable Carcinogen. You can read about this unanimous decision and declaration by their experts here:

The announcement that glyphosate ‘probably causes cancer’ has led to countries and cities around the world acting to ban or restrict the sale and use of glyphosate to protect human health and environment. This includes California, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, France, Sri Lanka, Mexico, and Russia.

In Argentina 30 000 health professionals have called for a ban on glyphosate. The President of the Portuguese Medical Association has recently called for a ban on glyphosate and local governments in cities all over the world have decided to stop using glyphosate on their streets and parks to protect the health of their citizens and environment. Despite this global response to the increasing rejection of glyphosate use in our urban environment, local government authorities in Perth continue to spray more and more dangerous glyphosate on our streets, near our homes and in our children's playgrounds every year.

The residues of glyphosate can stay in the environment for up to 174 days, often breaking down into more toxic substances. The spraying of glyphosate in the middle of summer on hard surfaces is unnecessary and ineffective as most weeds are dead at this time of year. Glyphosate must be sprayed on living weeds to work and evidence collected over many years in Perth shows that contractors are literally spraying bare concrete where there are no weeds anyway. This is a waste of ratepayer’s money and an unnecessary risk to our health and environment.

The community can be exposed to pesticides through spray drift and volatilisation during application especially under hot conditions. Children and babies are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of pesticides. A cocktail of scheduled poisons are often applied to turf areas such as local parks. Yet signage (if any) is removed within minutes of spraying on parks and playgrounds allowing the public, especially children to be exposed through dermal contact and ingestion.

Epidemiological studies have suggested glyphosate is linked to a range of health issues such as kidney disease, congenital malformations and infertility. Glyphosate exposure has also been positively associated with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The overuse of Glyphosate has caused the increase of resistant weeds, a major threat to our agricultural sector requiring an increase in the amount and use of more toxic pesticides. Pesticide residues in the urban environment leach into drains leading to our waterways undermining the health of aquatic ecosystems. Urban applications of glyphosate undermine our agricultural sector and this is unsustainable.

It is time to stop poisoning our neighbourhoods. There are safer, proven and more cost effective alternatives to control weeds. These include steam treatments, manual and mechanical techniques. Often better turf management and planning can resolve many weed issues in our urban environment. 

Our children deserve better than to be exposed to a cocktail of poisons through a simple visit to their neighbourhood playground, park or sports field.

Workers, pedestrians and the community in the privacy and comfort of their own homes, should not be exposed to glyphosate spray drift and vapours from council vehicles driving along footpaths and roads spraying for weeds that are not there. 

Cancer prevention beats cancer cures. Demand that our Health, Environment and Local Government Ministers act immediately to put an end to glyphosate spraying in our urban environment now.