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Calls for ban on weedkiller use rejected as Wrexham Council ‘confident’ in following policy

Calls for a ban on a type of weedkiller which has been linked to cancer have been rejected.

A number of concerns have been raised over the use of glyphosate-based products following a US court case which saw chemical giant Monsanto ordered to pay $289 million to a groundskeeper with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Members of Wrexham Council’s homes and environment scrutiny committee met yesterday to decide how such herbicides should be used in future.

Cartrefle councillor Ronnie Prince called on committee members to back either a ban or temporary stop to using glyphosate products until their safety is proven.

However, councillors were reassured by a report from officers which showed their use is being minimised in the county, and stopped short of supporting an outright ban, asking for the situation to be closely monitored instead.

The World Health Organisation’s cancer agency previously said glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans”, but controlled use is still supported by the Welsh Government and Health and Safety Executive.

Discussing the US court case, which was the first lawsuit to go to trial alleging a glyphosate link to cancer, Cllr Prince said: “I believe the weedkiller he used is the same type of weedkiller that Wrexham Council use.

“In view of this new revelation regarding this issue, I am now calling on the council to refrain from using this product altogether or at least a moratorium on its use until it’s proven safe.

“Other products in this country have been licenced before and it doesn’t guaranteed it’s safe, thalidomide being a an example of a product that has caused misery to many people.”

The local authority has previously admitted to overspraying weedkiller in Wrexham, but has since put staff through training and reduced its use from from 373 litres in 2017 to 215 litres this year.

Although the product was sprayed in play areas in the past, this has now been stopped.

Cllr David A Bithell, lead member for environment, said glyphosate was still the safest and most effective way of tackling weeds and asked members to consider the financial impact of seeking alternatives.

He said: “Those of us who’ve suffered cancer take a particular interest in making sure products we use are safe. I’m confident that we’re using a safe product provided that our staff put down the product safely.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of work over the last six months to make sure that is happening.

“We’re confident we’re following Welsh Government policy, Welsh Government policy is saying it’s safe.”

He was supported by Cllr Alun Jenkins, who said he felt the authority was not in a position to impose a ban.

He said: “There are things that can only be treated by certain herbicides and I wouldn’t like to stop us from doing that.

“The usage has gone down, we’re being more careful and being careful that people operating it are not being harmed by it.”

Cllr Carrie Harper said information on the safety of glyphosate was ‘far from conclusive’ and highlighted 5,000 impending lawsuits against Monsanto over the issue in the US.

However, councillors ultimately voted in favour of supporting the current system of using the minimum amount of herbicide to control weeds on highways and open spaces.

They also said they would monitor the herbicide-free approach to weed management taken by other councils.

 

By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).

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