The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
New Yorkers who visit their local parks have likely been exposed to glyphosate, the controversial, cancer-linked main ingredient in Monsanto's popular herbicide Roundup. But the data about herbicide and pesticide spraying projects across the city isn’t adding up.
In May 2015, in response to the concerns of community activists and public health advocates, the city government released a report, Pesticide Use by New York City Agencies in 2014, detailing the use of pesticides by city agencies in 2014. According to that report, the city applied glyphosate 2,748 times.
New York isn't the only major U.S. city that sprays glyphosate. San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Seattle and Philadelphia also use the controversial herbicide. Photo credit: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock
However, according to data procured by a Freedom of Information Law request, the city has revealed only 2,000 locations of glyphosate use in 2014. Pesticide information related to Central Park and other areas that are managed not by the city government, but by nonprofit conservancies has not been made public.
Several environmental and community activist groups, including Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir, Stop the Spray and members of the Coalition Against Poison Parks, are pursuing legal action to “force the City to reveal all locations where it has been used."
According to the parks report, the city applied pesticides 162,584 times in 2014. Various city agencies used nearly 8,000 gallons and more than 100,000 pounds of pesticides. Compared to 2013 levels, there was a 21 percent increase in insecticides by volume in 2014. What is of particular concern is the fact that, as the report states, "there was a 16 percent increase in herbicide use by volume, reversing a declining trend. Much of the change was due to a 9 percent increase in glyphosate products used.”
In March 2015, the World Health Organization, the UN's public health agency, said glyphosate, which is widely used on genetically modified crops such as corn and soybeans, likely causes cancer. In its report, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, WHO’s cancer arm, classified glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans." The International Agency for Research on Cancer scientists found that the chemical "induced DNA and chromosomal damage in mammals and in human and animal cells in vitro."
They concluded that there was "sufficient evidence" that the herbicide causes cancer in non-human animals and "limited evidence" that it also causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma in humans. They said that the primary exposure to glyphosate comes through diet, home use—Roundup is a popular consumer gardening spray for people who are not informed about effective nontoxic methods—and living near sprayed areas.
A study published in February in the journal Environmental Health found that glyphosate persists in soil and water longer than previously thought and that human exposure to the chemical is rising. The chemical also has harmful effects on birds, fish and other wildlife.
While there was an increase in glyphosate use in New York City in 2014 as compared to 2013, the amount is much lower than it was in 2009, when, according to the Parks Department, it was used "to control invasive species in remote, often wooded, parkland.” The increase in glyphosate spraying in 2014 may have been due to “forest restoration work [which] was again done by Parks and their contractors, accounting for a substantial proportion of the city’s glyphosate use."
To help residents steer clear of the toxic areas, Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir, a performance-based activist group based in New York City, created a map charting the parks and public areas across the city that have been sprayed with glyphosate. The map was created using data provided by the New York City Parks Department.
New York isn't the only major U.S. city that sprays glyphosate. San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Seattle and Philadelphia also use the controversial herbicide. Some big cities, like Chicago and Boulder, as well as smaller cities like Richmond, California and Takoma Park, Maryland, have instituted glyphosate bans.
The NYC Parks Department notes in its report that the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene “encourages the pursuit of alternative weed control methods that would reduce the need for these herbicides.” The city should follow its own advice and protect its citizens from this cancer-linked chemical.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Emily Deanne
Shower shoes? Check. Extra-long sheets? Yep. Energy efficiency checklist? No worries — we've got you covered there. If you're one of the nation's 12.1 million full-time undergraduate college students, you no doubt have a lot to keep in mind as you head off to school. If you're reading this, climate change is probably one of them, and with one-third of students choosing to live on campus, dorm life can have a big impact on the health of our planet. In fact, the annual energy use of one typical dormitory room can generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as the tailpipe emissions of a car driven more than 156,000 miles.
By Lorraine Chow
Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.
States that invest heavily in renewable energy will generate billions of dollars in health benefits in the next decade instead of spending billions to take care of people getting sick from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, according to a new study from MIT and reported on by The Verge.
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.
By Kristin Ohlson
From where I stand inside the South Dakota cornfield I was visiting with entomologist and former USDA scientist Jonathan Lundgren, all the human-inflicted traumas to Earth seem far away. It isn't just that the corn is as high as an elephant's eye — are people singing that song again? — but that the field burgeons and buzzes and chirps with all sorts of other life, too.
Humanity faced its hottest month in at least 140 years in July, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday. The finding confirms similar analysis provided by its EU counterparts.
By Hans Nicholas Jong
Indonesia's president has made permanent a temporary moratorium on forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging.
It's a policy the government says has proven effective in curtailing deforestation, but whose apparent gains have been criticized by environmental activists as mere "propaganda."