Playground pesticide fears
The Bermuda Government has failed to respond to questions over whether it has applied potentially carcinogenic pesticide in a children’s playground.
This newspaper was contacted on March 27 by a concerned parent who suspected ready-to-use Roundup or a similar product had been used at Warwick Long Bay Playground to treat grass protruding out of the sandpit.
Roundup was banned last May amid fears that the active ingredient glyphosate can cause cancer in humans.
In February this year, days after a meeting with representatives of Roundup manufacturer Monsanto, the Government announced that the ban was being relaxed and that importation would again be permitted.
The parent sent photographs of dead grass adding: “No matter what was used, we need to know whether the Government has treated the area, what it is and whether it is safe so we don’t have to worry. I won’t take my children there until I know, but I see children playing there all the time.”
His sentiments have been echoed by Buzz — an action group of concerned citizens under the auspices of the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce.
Close to a month after our first request for information, and despite weekly follow-up requests, the only correspondence shared by the One Bermuda Alliance on the matter so far has been a statement it had already released in February. The statement outlined that the science surrounding glyphosate-based herbicides is an “evolving area” and that their use was still being reviewed. This newspaper has filed a request under the Public Access to Information Act 2010 to find out at which playgrounds and public parks the products under review are being applied.
In its February statement, the Government pointed to a number of “contradictory studies” on the issue including one by a World Health Organisation-affiliated cancer agency the International Agency for Research on Cancer that found the formulation of Roundup to be “probably carcinogenic”. It also highlighted the European Food Safety Authority EFSA study reporting that the chemical was “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans”.
The parent believes that should there be any doubt, parents and the public at large should be made aware of where the chemicals are being used so they can make their own decision as to whether to avoid it.
He told The Royal Gazette: “It has been nearly a month now. Something needs to be done right away and it should be cleaned up.
“When I first saw it, it was at the same time they had started putting Roundup on the sides of the roads again and this looked exactly the same. You could tell from the overspray on to healthy grass that whatever it was, it was killing the grass.
“They had sprayed it directly onto the grass that was growing on the sand pit in the playground — big sections of 10 to 20 foot.
“It looks suspiciously like Roundup, but there is no safe weedkiller for playgrounds and the dead grass is still lying on the pit.
“There has now been a month of children crawling around on potentially dangerous ground. They can put their toys on the ground, they can put their toys in their mouth ... I don’t take my children there anymore.”
This newspaper contacted both the Ministry of Public Works under Craig Cannonier and the Ministry of Health under Jeanne Atherden.
Action group Buzz told us: “The lack of a response from the Government to the concerns of this parent is disappointing.
“It is important that parents have every opportunity to protect their child/children from suspected carcinogens.
“Early childhood development is precious and fragile and no one should be silent on the risks we create for our children.
“Government’s relaxation of the ban on ready-to-use Roundup does place an onus of responsibility for any questions or concerns generated by the Bermuda public.
“We encourage the ministers to speak immediately to this or any other concern about the use of chemicals in or around our playgrounds, parks and other areas where there is such an unavoidable risk to children.
“Surely parents must be in a position to make informed decisions on behalf of their families. Here in Bermuda, the only regulation in place to support The Pesticide Safety Act 2009 is for the importation of pesticides.” To date there are no regulations for the sale, application, transportation, handling, storage or disposal of these products.”