Weedkiller scare after €253m court judgement

By Mary Dennehy

SOUTH Dublin County Council is using non-glyphosate weedkillers in areas such as public parks, playgrounds and community gardens while continuing to trial other alternatives such as industrial grade vinegar and techniques using hot foam.

Last week the chemical glyphosate, which in used in weedkiller Roundup, received global coverage, after a Californian jury ordered Monsanto to pay nearly $290m (€253m) to groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson – who claimed that the product, which he used in his job, contributed to his terminal cancer.

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The yellow mark around trees from Roundup (pic: an Echo file pic from 2015)

Jurors unaminously found that Roundup and the professional grade version RangerPro contributed to Mr Johnson’s terminal illness, and that the company failed to adequately warn of the risks of using its main weedkiller.

German pharmaceutical company Bayer, which acquired chemical company Monsanto this year, has said that the ingredient glyphosate is “safe” – with the company planning on appealing the verdict.

Locally, the chemical glyphosate has in recent years generated much debate in the chambers of South Dublin County Council.

In July 2015, South Dublin County Council moved to address concerns over its use of glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup , after councillors Dermot Looney (Social Democrats) and Ronan McMahon (Renua) asked the Chief Executive to report on the potential dangers of the chemical.

The chemical had been used by the council for more than 20 years to kill weeds growing along grass verges, around lamp posts and in other hard-to-reach places for the council’s lawn mowers.

At the time, the council told The Echo that this chemical was a low toxicity product to kill plants and shrubs, adding: “It is a listed product and is approved for use by the Department of Agriculture, with many over-the-counter products available in garden centres also glyphosate-based.”

However, in May 2017, glyphosate was back on the council agenda after former Templeogue/Terenure councillor Enda Fanning (Sinn Féin) tabled a motion calling on the council to ban the use of the chemical in or close to public parks, playgrounds and community gardens.

The motion was passed in council chambers unanimously.

Not used in certain areas

When contacted by The Echo last week, a spokesperson for South Dublin County Council said: “In line with a motion passed in 2017 by the elected members of South Dublin County Council in relation to the use of glyphosate, it is not used in certain areas such as public parks, playgrounds and public gardens.

“The council uses non-glyphosate weed-killers and continues to trial other alternatives such as industrial grade vinegar and techniques using hot foam.”

However, the council does use “on occasion” weedkiller which contains glyphosate.

“Glyphosate is an approved active substance in the EU, and the existing registrations in Ireland remain in place,” the council spokesperson said.

“South Dublin County Council on occasion uses weedkiller which contains glyphosate, particularly in the management of Japanese Knotweed.

Currently, the only effective treatment for Japanese Knotweed is the application of a combination of different glyphosate-based herbicides which are applied on a rotating basis.”

Last December, the EU Commission renewed the licence for glyphosate, which will continue to be licensed for use in Ireland despite the US court ruling.

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