Man spraying Round UpDear Editor

I met this guy on our street (see picture) recently who I presume works for Amey. I asked him what he was spraying on the pavement and he replied: “It’s only Round-Up”. When I told him this was not just dangerous to his health but to the whole ecology of our planet, he said he knew, but he was only “spot spraying”. I asked him why he was not wearing protective clothing (he had no face mask or gloves) and he told me that he had these but had been advised not to wear them as this scared the general public. I told him the public was quite right to be scared as we don’t want poison sprayed on our pavements! In the States, a court case against Monsanto was won by a man who developed cancer after using Roundup. He was awarded $289 million in damages.

Pesticides and herbicides are contributing to what is now being called the 6th mass extinction of species. When was the last time you had to scrape insects from your windscreen? When I first started driving back in the 1970s every summer journey resulted in the windscreen being covered in insects. Now we rarely need to do this. Scientists have found In the last 25 years, three-quarters of all flying insects have disappeared in Germany. This has a knock-on effect on birds, amphibians and other species.

We have known about the dangers of herbicides and pesticides since 1962 when Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring. Glyphosate has been banned in Holland, Denmark, Sweden and France and some Councils around the UK such as Trafford, Brighton, Bristol and Croydon. But last year Sheffield City Council sprayed 1750 litres of Glyphosate on our pavements, verges and parks. Please sign the petition to stop this at More than 3200 people have already signed. 5000 signatures will force a debate in the Town Hall.

Yours faithfully

Graham Wroe

Letter to the Sheffield Star


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4 thoughts on “Poison on our pavements

  1. claire Wood says

    I support the green party pledge to stop the spraying of this harmful substance.

  2. Gerry Penny says

    Forgive this questiion, but how do the monetary costs of Roundup/Glyphosate and Foamstream compare per linear kilometre or per hectare?

  3. Patricia Sturman says

    Glyphosate should be banned from all areas FULL STOP! It gets into our wildlife food chain and water and is depleting our polinators , bugs, worms, slugs, and the wildlife birds badgers, that eat them This is the main reason for hedgehogs being scarce.
    Our wildlife is very fragile and precious and we need to keep them safe..

    Lets get together Don’t spray,……………… Dig for the sake of our wildlife It is better to DIG for than use poisonous chemicals. We also need to protect our children Using Glyposate in public places is unforgivable and a terribly reckless act.

  4. Graham Wroe says

    Hi Gerry
    The honest answer is I don’t know. It would be useful to ask the Cabinet Member for the Environment this question. I have been concentrating on the ecological cost rather than the financial one. However, if residents are willing to let verges grow with wildflowers, this would presumably be a cost-saving.
    I have little faith the Council are going to do anything about this unless they are forced to. Here are the answers to the questions we recently asked at full Council.

    1. Why aren’t roadsides and verges in our city being left alone wherever possible to allow wildflowers to grow? We have less than a fifth of our winged insects and pollinators left – without them, humans will die. In Amsterdam, an effort to leave verges untouched resulted in a 43% increase in bees. Why are we not taking this strikingly simple and costless action to preserve life?

    This already happens – as part of the changes to the Streets Ahead contract implemented in April 2018, around 712,000m2 of rural verges and a further 442,000m2 of grass verges along main roads and arterial routes were all moved onto to a single annual cut programme in the autumn (with the exception of sight lines at junctions) to allow wild flora and fauna to thrive on roadside verges. This project was undertaken in conjunction with Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust and Sheffield University.

    I would like to see if we can expand the number of vergers that can be seeded to increase biodiversity and allow for a comprehensive network to be established that can support wild-life movement into and throughout our city. By increasing connectivity of existing ‘bio-reserves’ I would hope that we can engineer a system that builds resilience into the existence of these wild-life friendly environments.

    Answer to Graham’s questions:

    1. Why don’t the workers spraying our streets with dangerous Glyphosate wear protective gear?

    All staff are issued with the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment as detailed on the label requirements and COSHH assessments for the use of glyphosate. However, if workers are not wearing this equipment then we must address this issue. Any help in identifying abuses of the wearing of protective equipment needs to be address.

    2. A court case against Monsanto in the States was won by a man who developed cancer after using Roundup. He was awarded $289 million in damages. What preparations have Sheffield Council/Amey made to be able to pay out damages to workers who get cancer as a result of their use of Glyphosate?

    The cancer risk from the use of Glyphosate is categorised by the World Health Organisation as being in the Group 2A classification – the same level of risk presented by activities such as eating Red Meat, Working Night Shifts or operating a food fryer.

    The scientific evidence regarding Glyphosate is unclear and it may be that there are other elements within Roundup that could be responsible for adverse health reports. Also, it is equally important to understand the nature and scale of exposure to chemicals/compounds and the impact these exposure dose rates may have had on those exposed to the given chemical/compound.

    This is not to say that the council are taking exposure to roundup lightly. We will continue to monitor the advice regarding Roundup and any such herbicide used.

    3. Last year Sheffield Council/Amey used 1750 litres of Glyphosate. It has been proved to cause mortality of species including bees, predatory mites, lacewings, ladybirds and beetles. Argentinian studies suggest that glyphosate use leads to a decline in honeybee activity. The demise of the monarch butterfly population in New York has been blamed on glyphosate. Glyphosate in soil takes 140 days to break down to half its toxicity and will continue to be taken up by plants from the soil for 2 years and longer. It’s toxic to earthworms and inhibits fungi essential for tree health, collecting nutrients and water to feed their host plant and protecting tree roots from harmful fungi and root rot diseases. Despite this, it is sprayed around trees in Sheffield. When is the Council/Amey going to stop using Glyphosate?

    Our network is 1180 miles long. In using 1750 litres of Glyphosate last year this equates to spraying approximately 1.5 litres per mile, if it was applied uniformly and indiscriminately across Sheffield. This is not the case. Roundup is used in a more targeted way.

    In regard to biological half-life of Glyphosate in soil there remains a lack of clarity or consensus. Many studies suggest that the half-life may be as little as 1-day post application. Similarly, there may be less than 2% of applied chemical lost to run off into the soil.

    In terms of the insect impacts, although Glyphosate is proven to affect the bacteria in the guts of honeybees, the main impact is removal of their primary food source – wildflowers through the efficacy of the product in killing ‘weeds’. This does however open the question as to what are ‘weeds’ and what is a ‘desirable flower’.

    4. The Council advised us in an article in Now Then magazine that they have been trialling alternatives to Glyphosate such as steam, hot water and foam spraying, mulching and not treating perimeters of open spaces such as parks. Have the trials which used alternatives to Glyphosate been successful?

    The trials have shown relatively poor efficacy in comparison to the use of glyphosate, resulting in a significant amount of hand and mechanical weeding and sweeping being required to achieve a similar standard. This level of physical activity is not currently sustainable.

    Allowing weeds to grow unchecked will quickly result in deterioration of the highway network due to them pushing through the surface and will cause trip hazards and a significant increase in complaints due to the visual impact on the streetscene.

    We will continue to explore how we can reduce the impact of damaging ‘weed’ growth. I would anticipate that as road and pavement replacement decreases throughout the remaining part of the highways maintenance contract then weeds growing through the pavements etc. will decrease as there will be less opportunity for seeds to get underneath the pavements.

    5. How successful have these measures been in reducing the amount of Glyphosate used?

    As highlighted above the measures undertaken to reduce Roundup usage proved far from positive. Any reduction in glyphosate use has been offset by the significant additional resource of having to mechanically remove weeds. However, we will continue to explore how we can reduce the use of herbicides.

    Labour have committed to pursuing the Green New Deal (GND). Should Labour be elected to run the country the principles of the GND would result in system change and re-evaluation of public service and public good. As part of that process we would look to move our economy towards an expanded service sector where ‘human’ energy will replace fossil fuel derived energy.

    Under such circumstances, and once the debilitating impact of austerity has been overturned, we may then be able to effectively and efficiently keep our highways clear of weeds without the use of petrochemicals and products derived thereof.

    We are not yet at that stage. But we are looking to see how we can get there as quickly as possible.

    5. Why aren’t residents warned when Glyphosate is going to be sprayed on their street?

    All weed spraying operations are undertaken in accordance with the EU Sustainable Use Directive, EU Water Framework Directive, HSE Guidance and Label Requirements, this is not a requirement of these pieces of legislation.

    I would expect however that all use of Roundup or similar herbicides would be undertaken in a save and appropriate method. We will continue to review the practise and look to minimise the use of Roundup wherever appropriate.
    I know that these answers are not all that you would hope that they be, but I have attempted to be as clear an open as to the issues we currently face in delivering the environment that I think we would all like to see.

    I do hope that you can see the direction and ambition that the council has adopted. I am sure that these ambitions will evolve as we move forward. I also hope that you will be able to challenge us at every stage to do the best possible at that particular time.

    Best wishes,


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