Awareness of pesticide-use in public areas used by children is low but the health dangers demand our attention. However we have just been let down by Defra. See articles by Tom Levitt in The Ecologist here and here. At least Stroud is taking more care as I will note below...
Photos: wouldn't it be great to see signs like this!
The first article notes that: "By 2012 the UK is required under new EU laws to have created a national action plan for reducing pesticides. The EU's directive also requires member states to ensure the use of pesticides is minimised or prohibited in certain specific areas."
Campaigners, including myself, have argued that the ban should be compulsory rather than voluntary. We haven't yet done anywhere enough re reducing pesticides in agriculture - but here is an opportunity to at least reduce pesticides in parks and schools.
The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and PAN UK estimate children may be exposed to at least four potentially cancer-causing pesticides and several others with serious health impacts. It seems crazy we can spray parks and football grounds then let our children run, crawl and play all over the area within minutes.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has also advised the government that it should introduce mandatory notification of spraying to alert 'vulnerable groups such as those suffering from respiratory problems'. Defra's own consultation on the issue admitted that the public believed the current voluntary approach was not working and that public signs indicating spraying had taken place should be compulsory. However, the government has ignored the public and medical profession, saying: 'We do not believe it is appropriate to introduce a statutory requirement for operators to provide advance notice of planned spray operations to members of the public living adjacent to sprayed land.'
Things are at least changing elsewhere. Denmark has already reduced pesticide-use in public areas by 80 per cent since the 1990s while three cities in Belgium have banned pesticides from streets, parks and cemeteries. Switzerland banned the use of herbicides on roofs, balconies, roads, squares and has plans to extend this to public parks. In Canada, the province of Ontario has banned pesticide use on lawns and parks.
Stroud Town and Stroud District
Locally I have raised the issue several times including again last month. At Stroud Town Council the use of a herbicide is a method of last resort. The aim is always to control weeds by careful design and by appropriate maintenance. They do use glyphosate (which is allegedly non-persistent, breaking down into neutral compounds on contact with the soil) and has been approved for use - but then only for application over the minimum area when it is clear that the other methods, referred to above, are ineffective. The Town Council are in the process of reviewing their Greenspaces management plan so this is a good time to make your views known.
Meanwhile at the District Council I have been informed that: "We do not use any pesticides in the general vicinity of Stratford Park other than using Glyphosate around the car parking areas and fungicide on the Bowling Green and Cricket Square. We try to use cultural methods to control weeds and to encourage biodiversity."
They also note that: "We are very concerned about the effect of pesticides on bees and butterflies etc and are endeavouring to increase the populations through the planting of nectar rich flower species."
So we still have a way to go but better than many....