Call for weed killer ban to be lifted

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A government report has recommended that the ban on the weed killer Rodeo be lifted in Bermuda.

Environmental engineer Geoff Smith was tasked with looking into the risks of the weed control glyphosate from road spraying in light of local concerns.

The draft report that recently appeared on the Government’s website found that there were no significant adverse health effects detected from the chemical’s use.

“Based on the determined exposure risk to the public, herbicide applicator employee and the environment, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources can find no reason from the existing legislation from other developed jurisdictions to continue the ban on the concentrated glyphosate formulation that was tested; Rodeo,” the November 2016 report states.

“The minister responsible for Health and the minister for the Environment have sufficient information in this report to suggest that the current ban on the concentrated glyphosate product Rodeo, which is used by the Ministry of Public Works roadside weed control programme, be lifted.”

The study was initiated to address concern over the exposure risk from the roadside spraying of the herbicide glyphosate to the public and to the employees of the Government roadside weed control programme.

As a result of a petition from the public and following various stakeholder meetings, the Minister of Health decided to suspend the importation of glyphosate products to Bermuda in May 2015. As part of the study the groundwater used to feed the Ministry of Public Works reverse osmosis treatment system and the resultant potable water was tested.

Air samples from inside and the rear of the vehicle used to spray the herbicide were tested, while foodstuffs imported to supermarkets in Bermuda were also examined.

The report states: “The groundwater and pond water data suggests that the concentrations of glyphosate and its degradation products are well below the most stringent drinking water and environmental quality standards that apply in other jurisdictions.

“This information suggests that the current use of glyphosate in Roundup® and, Rodeo® and other glyphosate products with respect to weed control only, in Bermuda, is not considered to be creating any measurable environmental impact to the groundwater or pond water and is not detectable in the potable water for public use.”

The report also states: “Based on the existing most stringent legislated Acceptable Daily Intake levels the foodstuffs sampled do not pose a health risk from glyphosate ingestion.

“Based on the current most stringent exposure limits, the results from this study highlighted that the risk to human health posed by roadside spraying of glyphosate of Rodeo® for weed control was safe provided that the current standard operating procedures and safety precautions were maintained.”

Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide used by a number of companies to manufacture herbicides designed to manage broadleaved weeds and grasses. It can be found locally in products such as Rodeo, manufactured by Dow Chemical, Ortho Ground Clear, Ace Weed and Grass Killer, and Touchdown Pro. A six-month ban was placed on glyphosate in May last year after a World Health Organisation study of the chemical determined that it was “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

In February this year <>i>The Royal Gazette reported that The Ministry of Health had also banned the importation of glyphosate formulae pending “a local review of all pertinent information”.

The report states: “Based on the information presented in this report with respect to the exposure risk to the public, herbicide applicator employee and the environment that have been taken from existing legislation from other jurisdictions the Department of Environment & Natural Resources can find no reason to continue the ban on the concentrated glyphosate formulation Rodeo® that is used by the Ministry of Public Works for roadside weed control.”

The report goes on to list a series of recommendations including risk assessments for each type of pesticide use and informing the public when spraying is taking place.

“It is strongly recommended that the importation of concentrated pesticide formulations (i.e. not Ready To Use products) be controlled and limited to personnel who have demonstrated sufficient training and certification to ensure that all pesticide products are applied in a safe and sustainable manner.

“As a precaution, the herbicide applicator employee shall be provided with annual health assessments to the requirements of the Chief Medical Officer for the Ministry of Health & Seniors.”

A government spokeswoman said the Ministry of the Environment welcomed comment on the study.

The spokeswoman added: “The findings of the report, with respect to the exposure risk to the public, herbicide applicator employee and the environment, using existing legislation from other jurisdictions as benchmarks, suggest that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources can find no reason to continue the ban on the concentrated glyphosate formulation Rodeo® that is used by the Ministry of Public Works for roadside weed control.

“Other recommendations are also presented that address training and certification of competent commercial and private pesticide applicators as determined by the Department of Health in addition to requiring a risk assessment process with potential mitigation measures to be considered before opting for more harmful pesticide-based solutions.”

A public meeting will be held on January 12 at 5.30pm at Wesley Methodist Church Hall to discuss the study.

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Published Dec 23, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 23, 2016 at 2:52 am)

Call for weed killer ban to be lifted

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