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Herbicide linked to cancer used in parks in Redbridge

PUBLISHED: 17:37 25 January 2019

Valentines Park in Ilford. Photo: Ken Mears

Valentines Park in Ilford. Photo: Ken Mears

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Chemicals which have been linked to cancer are being used to kill weeds in green spaces and parks in Redbridge.

Vision use a herbicide which contains a chemical linked to cancer. Photo: Ken MearsVision use a herbicide which contains a chemical linked to cancer. Photo: Ken Mears

Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure confirmed it does use a herbicide containing glyphosate - which was at the centre of a US court case last year where a groundskeeper was awarded damages after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Councillor for Wanstead Village, Jo Blackman, said the use of the herbicide poses risks to health and the environment as well as possible financial implications a case is brought to court.

“There has been concerns over glyphosate as a pesticide in terms of the environmental risks and human safety,” she said.

“There was a court case recently about a man who contracted cancer and he was awarded damages.”

At an external scrutiny meeting today (Friday, January 25) Cllr Blackman asked Vision chief executive Iain Varah, how often and where the chemical was used in the borough.

As primary school pupils were visiting the town hall to experience a scrutiny meeting he did not want to “bore them” by going through everything but promised to send a document containing the information to her.

He did confirm, however, that while the herbicide was used, Vision has reduced how much it was using.

Speaking after the meeting Cllr Blackman said: “It is encouraging that they are using less of it, which is a positive thing, but they are still used in some areas.”

Pesticide Action Network (Pan) UK said other local authorities have adopted alternative approaches to managing their green spaces and said it would be able to help Redbridge go chemical free.

“The pesticides being sprayed in London have been linked to all sorts of nasty health problems, including cancer, and vulnerable groups such children tend to be most affected,” said Josie Cohen, head of policy and campaigns.

“These chemicals are also contaminating water sources and harming urban wildlife such as bees and hedgehogs.

“Lots of councils have already banned pesticides from their parks and green spaces and adopted non-chemical alternatives, including London’s Hammersmith & Fulham and Croydon - Pan UK is ready and waiting to help Redbridge Council go pesticide-free.”

The Pan UK spokeswoman added that the herbicide is used to maintain the “aesthetics” of an area.

Kevin Wackett, head of parks and open spaces at Vision said it uses both physical and chemical methods for controlling weeds.

“We have devised a programme of spot weed control using a glyphosate based product for controlling weeds within parks and have found this to be very effective whilst minimising the volume of chemical required,” he said.

“Vision monitor the use of all pesticides use and actively employ alternative methods of control such as physically removing unwanted vegetation or allowing areas to grow naturally to encourage wildlife but there is a balance which has to be managed to meet the service needs and financial restraints.

“During the autumn months the parks service will recycle fallen leaf litter in parks, blowing the leaf litter into the shrub beds to act as a mulch. This has a number of benefits helping to retain the moisture in the soil, guards against temperature extremes and creates a habitat for microorganisms also acting as a weed suppressant thus reducing the need to apply any form of chemical.”

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