Following the recent classification of the pesticide glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” (Class 2A) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency, several bodies have called for its withdrawal, as a precautionary measure, where potential for worker and public exposure is particularly high.
This designation significantly alters the risk profile associated with the various uses of glyphosate. In the past glyphosate has also been linked with causing birth defects, reproductive and developmental abnormalities, DNA damage, and adverse effects to the immune system.
Glyphosate is the most commonly used herbicide in Europe and, together with its major metabolite AMPA, has been found in soils, waters, and in items of food. At present, however, there is no systematic surveillance monitoring in place to determine human exposure and any subsequent impacts upon human health. Ultimately, further assessment may indicate that more restrictions are necessary for other uses of glyphosate in agricultural production in order to protect agricultural workers, people in rural areas and consumers. Workers health is seriously put at risk during spraying.
Glyphosate is used to largely to prevent weeds which cause “trip hazards and physical damage to surfacing as well as block sightlines, trap litter and look unsightly”.
There is no notification or signage required to alert the public if glyphosate has been sprayed – many local authorities use it because it’s not perceived as a threat to public health. This means park users specifically small children and dogs may inadvertently come into close contact with sprayed areas. Roundup is also sold in many garden centres around the UK for amateur use.